HIV: How Long Does it Live Outside the Body?

How long does human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) survive outside the human body? This is one question with great misapprehension about how long, the virus that causes AIDS, lives outside the body.

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HIV causes incurable disease that can’t be deactivated by the body, but it is very fragile in the environment once outside the body. It quickly dies once outside the body and is unable to transmit infection when the fluid it’s in is exposed to air.

However, the virus can survive for long if it is kept in a syringe under specific conditions.

How does HIV spread?

HIV spreads when blood or certain body fluids with high amounts of active virus are exposed to the bloodstream of a person. There must be enough active virus in the fluid that meets the bloodstream before a person can become infected.

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This occurs through a mucus membrane such as mouth, penis, vagina, and rectum. It can also be through a significant opening in the skin or injection. Transmission of the virus most often happens during vaginal or anal sex, including sharing of blades and needles.

Factors that affect the survival of HIV outside the body include:

  • The ultraviolet light in sunshine: destroys the HIV virus and renders it harmless.
  • HIV is destroyed by heat: but stays alive and active when kept in the cold.
  • Level of acidity: HIV survives best at a pH around 7 and becomes inactive when the environment is even just a little more or less acidic.
  • Amount of virus in the fluid.The higher the level of HIV virus in the fluid, the longer it will take for all of it to become inactive.

How long does HIV live outside the body in air?

Once exposed to air, HIV can’t live for long, this is because as soon as fluid leaves the body and is exposed to air, it quickly dries up. This damages the virus. Studies show that, even at levels much higher than that usually found in the body fluids and blood of people with HIV, 90 to 99 percent of the virus is inactive within hours of being exposed to air.

How long does HIV live outside the body in blood?

HIV in blood from a cut or nosebleed can last for several days, even in dried blood. The amount of virus is small and not able to spread infection easily.

When a person with high levels of HIV is injected, enough blood remains in the syringe to transmit the virus. Since it’s inside a syringe, the blood isn’t as exposed to air as it is on other surfaces.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when the temperature and other conditions are just right, HIV can live as long as 42 days in a syringe, though under refrigeration. HIV lives the longest in a syringe at room temperature, but can still live up to seven days at higher temperatures.

How long does HIV live outside the body on surfaces?

When a bodily fluid containing HIV leaves the body and drops on a surface, the virus remains active within the fluid for several days, even as the fluid dries. The virus slowly dies over the course of several days. The amount of virus able to transmit an infection in such a small volume is negligible.

How long does HIV live outside the body in water?

HIV doesn’t survive long when exposed to water. According to one study, only 10 percent of the HIV virus was still active after 1 to 2 hours in tap water. After 8 hours, only 0.1 percent was active.

How long does HIV live outside the body in sperm?

Immediately any of the fluids that contain HIV leave the body and are exposed to air, the fluid dries up and becomes inactive.  There’s nothing special about semen that protects HIV so it can survive longer outside the body.



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