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How long can HIV live outside the body?

How long can HIV live outside the body?

  • HIV can survive outside the body for weeks

  • There has never been a case of HIV infection from casual contact with contaminated surfaces of potentially infected body fluids

I often get this question or variations on it for example:

How long can HIV survive in air?

How long can HIV survive on surfaces?

Let’s look at the evidence available to us.

  • HIV is killed by heat. Temperatures of above 60⁰C will kill HIV.
  • HIV is NOT killed by cold. In fact, colder temperatures increase the survival time of HIV.
    • At 27⁰C to 37⁰C, HIV can survive up to 7 days in syringes
    • At room temperature, HIV can survive in dried blood for 5 to 6 days
    • At 4⁰C, HIV can survive up to 7 days in dried blood
    • At -70⁰C, HIV can survive indefinitely
    • HIV can only survive in pH between 7 and 8
    • HIV has been found to survive for a few days in sewage
    • HIV has been found to survive in organs and corpses for up to 2 weeks

You would notice that all these studies are done on blood. There is really no good evidence to determine how long HIV from semen, vaginal secretions of other body fluids can survive outside the body. One fact is that it is very difficult to culture HIV from semen. This indicates the low viral content and we can assume that the same timelines for blood apply to semen if not less.

In these experiments, the survivability of the HIV virus is determined by its retention of the ability to infect cells in cell culture.

We must be careful not to equate survivability to infection. In other words:

HIV infected surface/fluid + broken skin ≠HIV infection

This is because there are many other factors that influence infection for example, the amount of virus has to be high enough in order to cause an infection. Also, when live HIV virus comes into contact with broken skin or mucosa, it still has to undergo a very complex series of steps before it actually causes a HIV infection. The mechanism of HIV infection is a lot more complex and will be discussed in detail in another article.

You would also note that these experiments were all done in a controlled environment of a lab. Many other factors such as wind, rain, humidity, type of surface etc are not taken into account.

Most people ask this question because they have been exposed to some potentially infected fluids and are afraid of being infected with HIV.

To date, there have not been any cases of HIV transmission via casual contact with surfaces or contaminated fluids.

HIV is transmitted via sexual intercourse, blood transfusion and sharing of infected needles. There have also been isolated cases of HIV transmission from dental treatments.

In summary, if you have touched some surface or fluid that you think might be contaminated with HIV, do not worry. You will not get infected.

If you have any questions, visit our free online forum on sexual health, HIV and STDs.

If you had a high risk exposure to HIV within the past 72 hours, you can take medicines to reduce your risk of actually contracting HIV. Find out more on HIV PEP Treatment.

If not read more about HIV symptoms.

Can’t wait for 3 months to find out? Find out more about Anonymous Rapid HIV Combo test at our clinics.

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We have 5 locations conveniently located at Robertson Walk, Bencoolen Street, Novena, Scotts (Pacific Plaza) and Somerset (H&M)

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About Dr. Tan
Dr. Tan graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2001. His residency was in the two largest public hospitals in Singapore; Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Singapore General Hospital.

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948 Comments

  1. Hello. Prompt if the blood vich got in a plate with food and then in a stomach. What is the probability of infection? thank…

  2. Hi
    If my penis came into contact with wet semen on a bed sheets/pillow during masturbation could I get infected. Normally I check the sheets before i lay down on them but this one time I did not and I do not know the time period between the last time someone was in the hotel room before I got in.

  3. GOOD MORNING SIR,
    YESTERDAY I WENT TO MASSAGE PARLOUR DURING THE MASSAGE BOTH WE ARE NACKAED AND I RUBBED MY BARE PENIS ON HER THIGHS ONLY THE THIGHS AND I KEPT MY PENIS IN BETWEEN HER THIGHS AND DO THE ACTIVITY SIMILAR TO INTERCOURSE AND EJACULATED NOW I AM REALLY TENSED BECAUSE IF HER THIGHS CONTAIN THE VAGINAL FLUID FROM HER VAGINA AND THE FLUID GOT CONTACT WITH MY URETHRA OR PENIS HEAD IS THERE IS ANY RISK OH HIV ?DO I NEED TO TAKE PEP PLEASE SIR PLEASE REPLY

  4. Sir i had protected sex after sex immediately with in 5 seconds i remove the condom while removing some vaginal fluids are touch my fingues with same fingures i touch pennis and fore skin immediately with in 5 seconds any risk is associated with this activity plz tell me i m scared sir help me

  5. sir actually I had a sexual intercourse with commercial sex worker 2 month agoo .I had a protected sex .but I had inserted my finger on her hole while my finger had winter frost with tore skin without blood flowing .can I get hepatities and hiv through that sir . I am feeling pain in my liver area from 2 weeks and the pain is ver y worse ..I am at risk of getting hepatitis sir. which test can I do in 2 months too know it

  6. Sir i contact one commercial sex worker two days ago with protection after sex immediately i remove condom but i touch extenal side that means i touch vaginal fluids outside condom with same hand i clean my pennis sir plz tell me any risk associated with this activity plz

  7. Sir i contact one commercial sex worker two days ago with protection after sex immediately i remove condom but i touch extenal side that means i touch vaginal fluids outside condom with same hand i clean my pennis sir plz tell me any risk associated with this activity plz

  8. hlo sir I shaved my pubic hair after 2 hr of intercourse.will shaving cuts contracts hepatitis B,C and herpes in the body .

  9. I had a razor cut in my hand which was used by my friend on previous day , am I at risk of getting HIV ??
    Thank you for your answer

    • I do not believe there is a significant risk from this exposure, but if you are concerned you could have your friend tested, and yourself.

  10. hlo doctor I did hiv 1 2 antibodies and p24 antigen test which was negative in 4 weeks is this conclusive sir ..should I need to test again in 3 months sir also I did hbsag and anti hcv test in same day will it detect hepatitis early pls help me out

    • I would consider your HIV testing essentially conclusive. Hepatitis testing may require up to 3 months for conclusive results.

  11. MathewLeo

    Hello Doctors , a few days me and my friend had clothes sex i mean no penetrated then he ejacualated in his short and then it got into my jeans then into my underwear a small wet spot of his semen i changed my clothes after 10 minutes will i have hiv from this situation and also i have done something weird after 6 hours i picked the jeans that have small wet drop of my friend’s semen then licked it with my tounge were dried i guess so please inform me if i had had any risk from above details and my friend is sexually active and his Hiv statue unkown. Thanks in Advance

  12. hlo doctor is dual combo Ag/Ab and 1&2 antibodies and p24 antigen test is same ..my doctor recommended me to do second one ang got negative result ..is this conclusive sir ..should I need to test it again in 3 months again

  13. sir as your consulation.I tested for some stds in 2 weeks of intercourse
    hepatities b and c: not reactive
    rpr : no reactive
    crp quantitative :5/l
    aso titre : positive
    a
    is this test conclusive .shouldi need to go for other tests .can these test find other viruses such
    as herps and bacterial stds gonorrohea and chyalmadia .should I need to test again

    • At 2 weeks, your tests are not conclusive. You will need to repeat testing at 3 months for hepatitis and syphilis. Testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes are separate tests. Please visit us for a proper consult and evaluation.

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