Handshake with HIV+


Hi Ryan, recently I shook hands with an HIV infected person. What makes me worry sick is that I had a small open sore in my hand. Now I have had rash (off/on) for three weeks on my arms/legs and stomach. Do you recommend testing?


Testing is not recommended. There is no evidence that HIV is spread during casual contact with an HIV infected person. Casual contact includes handshaking, hugging, sharing the same bathroom, eating the same food, and other day-to-day activities that do not involve sexual or needle-sharing contact.

Transmission and infection are only possible when the following criteria are met:

  1. You are exposed to HIV infected fluid that is implicated in transmission: blood, semen, vaginal/cervical secretions, or breast milk. The trace amounts of HIV in saliva, tears, urine, and sweat are not implicated in infection.


  1. That fluid comes into direct, and relatively immediate, contact with your mucous membranes or bloodstream. Fresh cuts or sores may facilitate transmission. HIV generally survives outside of the body for several minutes.

The routes through which HIV is known to be transmitted are:

  1. Sexual contact (vaginal, anal, and oral sex)

  2. Blood-to-blood contact (injection needle sharing, occupational exposures, transfusions)

  3. Mother-to-infant (during pregnancy, delivery, or breast-feeding)

The fact that you had a sore on your hand only meets one criteria for transmission to be possible. It is unlikely that your rash is related to HIV.

Please read through the "HIV/AIDS Basics" (http://www.thebody.com/whatis/underst.html#basics) for more information on transmission.