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HIV Transmission

March 25, 2010

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Can HIV be transmitted by human bite?

It is very rare, but in specific circumstances HIV can be transmitted by a human bite. In 1997, CDC published findings from a state health department investigation of an incident that suggested blood-to-blood transmission of HIV by a human bite. There have been other rare reports in the medical literature in which HIV appeared to have been transmitted by a human bite. Biting is not a common way of transmitting HIV, in fact, there are numerous reports of bites that did not result in HIV infection. Severe trauma with extensive tissue damage and the presence of blood were reported in each of the instances where transmission was documented or suspected. Bites that do not involve broken skin have no risk for HIV transmission, as intact skin acts as a barrier to HIV transmission.

Summary:

  • There is no risk from a bite where the skin is not broken.
  • There is a remote risk of transmission by human bite. All documented cases where transmission did occur included severe trauma with extensive tissue damage and the presence of blood.

Can HIV be transmitted by being scratched?

No. There is no risk of transmission from scratching because there is no transfer of body fluids between individuals. Any person with open wounds should have them treated as soon as possible.

Can HIV be transmitted by being spit on by an HIV-infected person?

No. In some persons living with HIV, the virus has been detected in saliva, but in extremely low quantities. Contact with saliva alone has never been shown to result in transmission of HIV, and there is no documented case of transmission from an HIV-infected person spitting on another person.

Can I get HIV from casual contact (shaking hands, hugging, using a toilet, drinking from the same glass, or the sneezing and coughing of an infected person)?

No. HIV is not transmitted by day-to-day contact in the workplace, schools, or social settings. HIV is not transmitted through shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets.

HIV is not an airborne or food-borne virus, and it does not live long outside the body.

Although contact with blood and other body substances can occur in households, transmission of HIV is rare in this setting. A small number of transmission cases have been reported in which a person became infected with HIV as a result of contact with blood or other body secretions from an HIV-infected person in the household. For information on these cases refer to the May 20, 1994, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, "Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission in Household Settings -- United States."

Persons living with HIV and persons providing home care for those living with HIV should be fully educated and trained regarding appropriate infection-control procedures.

You may view and/or download "Caring for Someone with AIDS at Home."

For more information on providing home care or living with a person who is HIV-infected, visit the CDC National Prevention Information Network (NPIN) Web site, or call NPIN at 1-800-458-5231.

Can I get HIV from mosquitoes?

No. From the start of the HIV epidemic there has been concern about HIV transmission from biting and bloodsucking insects, such as mosquitoes. However, studies conducted by the CDC and elsewhere have shown no evidence of HIV transmission from mosquitoes or any other insects -- even in areas where there are many cases of AIDS and large populations of mosquitoes. Lack of such outbreaks, despite intense efforts to detect them, supports the conclusion that HIV is not transmitted by insects.

The results of experiments and observations of insect biting behavior indicate that when an insect bites a person, it does not inject its own or a previously bitten person's or animal's blood into the next person bitten. Rather, it injects saliva, which acts as a lubricant so the insect can feed efficiently. Diseases such as yellow fever and malaria are transmitted through the saliva of specific species of mosquitoes. However, HIV lives for only a short time inside an insect and, unlike organisms that are transmitted via insect bites, HIV does not reproduce (and does not survive) in insects. Thus, even if the virus enters a mosquito or another insect, the insect does not become infected and cannot transmit HIV to the next human it bites.

There also is no reason to fear that a mosquito or other insect could transmit HIV from one person to another through HIV-infected blood left on its mouth parts. Several reasons help explain why this is so. First, infected people do not have constantly high levels of HIV in their blood streams. Second, insect mouth parts retain only very small amounts of blood on their surfaces. Finally, scientists who study insects have determined that biting insects normally do not travel from one person to the next immediately after ingesting blood. Rather, they fly to a resting place to digest the blood meal.

Can I get HIV while playing sports?

There are no documented cases of HIV being transmitted during participation in sports. The very low risk of transmission during sports participation would involve sports with direct body contact in which bleeding might be expected to occur.

If someone is bleeding, their participation in the sport should be interrupted until the wound stops bleeding and is both antiseptically cleaned and securely bandaged. There is no risk of HIV transmission through sports activities where bleeding does not occur.

Has HIV been transmitted from body fluids placed in restaurant food?

No incident of food being contaminated with HIV-infected blood or semen has been reported to CDC. Furthermore, CDC has received no reports of HIV infection resulting from eating food, including condiments.

HIV does not live long outside the body. Even if small amounts of HIV-infected blood or semen was consumed, exposure to the air, heat from cooking, and stomach acid would destroy the virus. Therefore, there is no risk of contracting HIV from eating food.

Has CDC discovered a mutated version of HIV that is transmitted through the air?

No, this story is not true. Many scientific studies have been conducted to examine all the possible ways that HIV is transmitted. These studies have not shown HIV to be transmitted through air, water, insects, or casual contact.

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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
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