Thursday, October 29, 2009

Q & A: "What is the maximum length of time HIV can remain infectious in a bodily fluid which has been deposited on a surface"

What is the maximum length of time HIV can remain
infectious in a bodily fluid which has been deposited on a
surface (like a floor or table or whatever)?
-- RI

When left on an open surface, HIV actually remains
infectious for a relatively short period of time. In most
cases, the virus is no longer viable after a couple of hours.
Transmission from such a surface (be it a toilet seat,
counter-top, bed sheets, etc.) would also require movement of the
virus through either a mucous membrane (such as the eye or mouth)
or a break in the skin of any kind. Therefore, except in very
unusual circumstances, you will not catch HIV from casual contact
with public toilets, counter tops, or other such surfaces.

Be aware, however, that materials or secretions that are newly
contaminated with the virus may be more or less transmissable
depending on the concentration of the virus, and how much of an
exposure occurs. For example, fresh semen containing the HIV
virus, when rubbed on fingers with no rashes or breaks in the
skin does not seem to be a problem; whereas if the finger touches
and heavily contaminates the eye, or if the finger has a cut or
open abrasion, and especially if the semen was contaminated with
high concentrations of HIV, transmission is possible.

-- R. Jandl

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