HIV and AIDS in wastewater

Question

I work in the wastewater treatment field, and want to know the survivabilty of the viruses in raw wastewater.

This question has been asked of me many times. I have heard many different answers over the oast few years and would like up to date information.

Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated.

Answer

Hi. Thank you for your question. The HIV virus can only live in the environment that is specifically within the human body. Once the virus is outside the body, it dies rapidly (usually within several minutes).

HIV cannot survive in waste water (sewage etc.). Remember, the virus can only survive in the specific environment found within the human body. This is why HIV will not survive in sewage. The longer the virus is outside the body, the less the chance is for transmission to occur. Normally, the virus will be dead within minutes after it is outside the body. Once the virus is outside the body, it is in a very hostile environment, and the virus cannot survive, unless it gets into another persons body within minutes. For more information on the survival of HIV outside the body, see the posting, HIV's Life Outside The Body.

Diseases that are transmitted through sewage have a totally different pattern of spread, as compared to HIV. Diseases transmitted through sewage specifically infect persons exposed to sewage or exposed to fecal matter. HIV on the other hand, specifically infects people engaging in very specific activities (sharing needles, unprotected sex, etc.). The pattern of spread of sewage-borne diseases is dramatically different from the pattern of spread of HIV.

Although HIV is not a risk through sewage, there are other diseases that a person CAN get (from exposure to sewage). These include certain viral infections (like Hepatitis A), various bacterial infections (like E. coli), and various parasitic infections (like Giardia). Therefore, you still have to be very careful about exposure to sewage, not because of HIV, but because of these other diseases. Since you work in the waste water treatment field, if your job exposes you to sewage, you may want to consider being vaccinated against Hepatitis A. Doing so will protect you from getting this infection.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail me at "nvhotline@aol.com" or call me at (Nationwide). I'm glad to help!