How long can HIV lay dormant in the body?


My partner and I are living out of the USA and have been together for almost 30 years. For the last 10 years as part of our regular physicals we have been checked for HIV and have come up negative each time. Now he has turned up positive and says he has not been with anyone else. The doctors here say that it is possible that he has had the virus in his system since before we met and has now only become detectable as he has been suffering from depression, is drinking more than before and his immune system has become compromised. I have no reason to doubt him but I am concerned that the testing, advice and care here in a third world country are not dependable. I have been tested and retested since his results and have come back negative although i am the passive partner. It was even suggested i get a PCR test where they go to the nucleus of the cell and that came back negative. Is it really possible to carry the HIV for that long before becoming positive?



I do not agree with the information you were given. There is no such thing as "dormant HIV." See below. Also, it is inconceivable that your partner would have HIV for 30 years and, have multiple negative HIV tests over the past 10 years and then test HIV positive due to depression, drinking and a compromised immune system. HIV just doesn't work that way! The only two scientific (and logical) possibilities for your partner's positive HIV test are:

  1. Your partner's positive HIV test is a "false positive." He should have the test repeated to rule out this possibility.

  2. Your partner has been exposed sometime recently.

Good luck to you both.

Dr. Bob

Gay club and laying dormant? (DORMANT VIRUS) Dec 27, 2008

I french kissed this really hot gay dancer (I'm a straight women) for a few seconds about 2 years ago. My friend told me this person has hiv. We were dancing and he was sweating. Is the french kiss/and sweaty dancing a risk? I worry if the kiss had small amount of blood from maybe if he had a cut. I don't really know beause I had a lot to drink.

I just recently got 3 oral swab rapid tests, 3 finger prick rapid tests, 1 elisa and 1 dna pcr test and all were negative. Keep in mind all these tests were done about 2 years after ocurance. Should I still worry about laying dormant? What does dormant mean? Would the tests still show neg/pos if it was dormant? I always thought dormant just meant you won't have symptoms, yet tests would come out pos if you were infected.

Is my french kiss episode a risk?? Are my tests FULLY accurate and I can move on?

I just sent a donation, as well as my best friend. We think you are so adorable! :)

Response from Dr. Frascino


Three quick points:

  1. Your HIV acquisition from a two-second kiss and some dirty dancing (no matter how sweaty) is essentially nonexistent. (See below.)

  2. Your seven negative HIV-antibody tests and undetectable DNA PCR are definitive and conclusive. HIV is not your problem. No way. No how.

  3. There is no such thing as "dormant HIV." (See below.)

Thank you for your donation to the Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation ( It's warmly appreciated.

Be well. Stay well. Nol!

Dr. Bob

Dormant HIV Nov 30, 2007

I've heard that HIV can lay dormant in the body for up to ten years. Is there any truth to this?

Response from Dr. Frascino


No, that is not true. It may take up to ten years after primary infection for HIV/AIDS symptoms to become manifest; however, that doesn't mean HIV has been lying "dormant" all that time. HIV remains very active throughout this "clinically latent" (symptom-free) period. I can assure you HIV is anything but a sleeping beauty!

Dr. Bob

Dormant virus (NATURAL HISTORY) Feb 10, 2007

Dr. Frascino, I am a HIV health educater and feel I pretty much have a handle on HIV and how it works. One thing that disturbs me is that I constantly hear about how a person can be HIV positive but it can lay dormant for a year before it can be detected. In other words these people claim that it could be months after exposure and the virus not be detected. Now I know the window period and I know how the test works. The alarming thing is I had a COLLEGE student tell me that this is what he heard in a college health course from the teacher. Please tell me I'm not missing something here. I'm thinking they are getting it mixed up with time of exposure to when one might actually start getting sick but they are talking about the virus not being detectable up to a whole year! Again, help me out here.

Response from Dr. Frascino


No, you are not missing something. The natural history of untreated HIV infection is as follows: Viral transmission followed 2-3 weeks later by acute retroviral syndrome, which can last 2-3 weeks, followed by recovery and seroconversion over the next 2-4 weeks. This is then followed by an asymptomatic period of chronic HIV infection that can last, on average, 8-9 years. Following this, patients usually develop symptomatic HIV infection/AIDS. And, if left untreated, will succumb to their infection within 1-2 years thereafter.

I don't know whether the college health course was dispensing incorrect information or if the particular college student you talked to misinterpreted what he was told. (Did he happen to flunk the course???) At any rate, you can set the record straight now.

Dr. Bob