How long does HIV live outside the body?

Question

How long does HIV live outside the body?

or on a persons skin?

Answer

I found the following answer to this question in a CDC pamphlet:

HIV in the Environment

Scientists and medical authorities agree that HIV does not survive well in the environment, making the possibility of environmental transmission remote. HIV is found in varying concentrations or amounts in blood, semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk, saliva, and tears. (See below, Saliva, Tears, and Sweat.) In order to obtain data on the survival of HIV, laboratory studies have required the use of artificially high concentrations of laboratory-grown virus. Although these unnatural concentrations of HIV can be kept alive under precisely controlled and limited laboratory conditions, CDC studies have showned that drying of even these high concentrations of HIV reduces the number of infectious viruses by 90 to 99 percent within several hours. Since the HIV concentrations used in laboratory studies are much higher than those actually found in blood or other specimens, drying of HIV- infected human blood or other body fluids reduces the theoretical risk of environmental transmission to that which has been observed--essentially zero.

Incorrect interpretation of conclusions drawn from laboratory studies have alarmed people unnecessarily. Results from laboratory studies should not be used to determine specific personal risk of infection because 1) the amount of virus studied is not found in human specimens or anyplace else in nature, and 2) no one has been identified with HIV due to contact with an environmental surface; Additionally, since HIV is unable to reproduce outside its living host (unlike many bacteria or fungi, which may do so under suitable conditions), except under laboratory conditions, it does not spread or maintain infectiousness outside its host.