10 HIV Myths Debunked
HIV and AIDS are often misunderstood. In fact, since AIDS was first described in 1981, there have been a number of myths, misconceptions, and dangerous falsehoods about them.
Though HIV/AIDS education is growing and both death rates and stigma are decreasing, it’s still important to know truth from fiction when it comes to these conditions. What do you know about these common HIV myths?
1. MYTH: People have been infected with HIV from taking the HIV test itself.
Some claim that the HIV test itself can give you the virus. But unless a clinic reuses a needle that was previously used on someone with HIV (a highly unlikely scenario that has never been reported), there is no way that testing for HIV could cause the infection
2. MYTH: You can catch HIV from a toilet seat.
The HIV virus cannot be transmitted by casual contact, from a toilet seat, a doorknob, a fork, or a handshake, for that matter. The only known HIV transmission methods include unprotected sex, intravenous drug use, exposure to blood or bodily fluids from an infected person, from mother to child in pregnancy, and through blood transfusions if the blood came from an HIV infected person. (Transmission of the virus did happen through blood transfusions or blood products in the 1980s before HIV testing became routine for all donated blood, but is highly unlikely to happen in a modern medical facility.)
3. MYTH: HIV can be cured.
There are medications available to suppress the HIV virus in infected individuals and to lower their viral load. Such treatments can prolong or prevent the development of AIDS for years or even a lifetime. However, researchers have not found a cure for HIV that would eliminate the virus from an infected person’s body entirely.
4. MYTH: If you test positive for HIV, you will inevitably die from AIDS.
In the early years, an HIV diagnosis often meant the infected person would develop AIDS and die from complications of the disease within a matter of years, but this is no longer true. Medications, combined with lifestyle changes and complementary therapies that support the body’s ability to keep the virus in check, can keep an HIV-infected person from developing AIDS or the fatal complications associated with it for many years, or even a lifetime.
5. MYTH: If both you and your partner have HIV, it’s safe to have unprotected sex with one another.
If you and your partner both test positive for the HIV virus, that doesn’t mean you can ignore the diagnosis or live life just as you did before your diagnosis. To best decrease your odds of developing AIDS, you should both work closely with a medical professional to manage the illness. You also both need to take whatever precautions you can to prevent exposing others to the HIV virus. This includes not having unprotected sex or sharing needles with anyone, taking proper precautions to contain and warn others about exposure to your bodily fluids (such as when you’re bleeding), and following any other advice from your HIV care team. Nobody with HIV can afford to ignore his or her diagnosis for their own sake, or for the sake of others who could be exposed to the virus.
6. MYTH: You can’t spread or get HIV through oral sex.
One myth HIV experts often hear is that HIV can’t be spread or contracted through oral sex. This is not true. If the person performing oral sex has a cut or abrasion in their mouth and comes in contact with HIV-infected bodily fluids, they can become infected with the virus just as they could having unprotected vaginal or anal sex. Using a dental dam or condom during oral sex greatly diminishes this risk.
7. MYTH: Mosquitoes can spread HIV.
While mosquitoes can spread a number of illnesses such as West Nile Virus or malaria, there are no known cases of HIV transmission through mosquito bites. If mosquitoes could transmit the HIV virus, there would be many more cases among young children, adolescents, and other people who would otherwise be at low risk for HIV exposure.
8. MYTH: You would know if you had HIV.
People who are infected with HIV don’t necessarily “feel” sick; it’s possible to have the HIV virus for some time before developing any symptoms. HIV testing is the only way to determine whether someone has HIV or not.
9. MYTH: HIV and AIDS may not be caused by the same virus.
Some claim HIV and AIDS are not caused by the same virus. This is not true. Without treatment, the HIV virus will probably progress to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is essentially a collapse of the immune system. However, with HIV treatment, most people living with the virus are able to prolong or prevent the development of AIDS.
10. MYTH: If you’re taking medication for HIV, you can’t spread the virus.
Even while taking medication, a person with HIV can still infect others if they have unprotected sex, share needles, or expose others to their blood or other bodily fluids.
Dr. Spivak: HIV is transmitted primarily sexually, and it can also be transmitted through blood. It cannot be transmitted through saliva, through casual contact, sharing a toilet seat in a public bathroom, sharing food with someone who is HIV infected. None of these are at all put anybody at risk.
Interviewer: But those stigmas did exist once, right? Because they must’ve come from somewhere.
Dr. Spivak: Oh absolutely, absolutely, and of course in the early days when AIDS was first described in the early 1980s we didn’t actually even know what caused it. It took two years. It was not until 1983 that a novel retrovirus, HIV, was discovered as the cause of AIDS. So you can imagine a disease that was causing such severe illness and deaths and you don’t know what causes it. We didn’t even know entirely that it was an infection for those first few years that a lot of stigma, a lot of stories circulate, and certainly those are powerful and have a way to persist.
Interviewer: One of the other misconceptions at least historically that might still kind of linger on today is you just see some of these old news clippings or these old photographs and things like that where people are referring to HIV and AIDS as a gay disease, as a gay cancer or something like that. We’re starting to find out that that’s not true.
Dr. Spivak: Yeah, no, no, no. Worldwide HIV is transmitted sexually actually through heterosexual sex as the predominant form of HIV transmission. In the early days again populations that seemed to be hardest hit were gay men, men who have sex with men, injection drug users, sex workers, and interestingly enough people of Haitian descent. But again, that has persisted along with the recognition of the early spread of AIDS among gay men as this population to be shunned. Of course when we’re talking about the 1980s we’re talking about a group that was very much discriminated against that felt very marginalized. Unfortunately a new disease, a lethal disease, a disease of unknown origin that seemed to be spreading like wildfire had the effect of amplifying a lot of those frankly prejudices that were already present in society.
Interviewer: What about HIV positive women who might be worried about whether or not they can ever have kids or be pregnant? What are some of the misconceptions about that?
Dr. Spivak: One of the real highlights, one of the bright spots with regard to prevention of HIV transmission is mother to child transmission. What we have learned through a number of really well done studies and now many years of clinical practice is that pregnant women with HIV who are started on anti-retroviral therapy on the treatment for HIV really do not pass on HIV to their infants. We know that even a single dose of the medicines given at the time of delivery can reduce transmission from mother to child. It appears as best we understand it that HIV transmits at the time of delivery. Even just a dose or two doses of the medicine at that time is a very powerful preventative. We go a few steps further than that and get mom fully treated, and in those circumstances transmission from mother to child is almost unheard of in the United States and Europe where we do this on a regular basis today, so a real bright spot in terms of HIV prevention.
Interviewer: What about some of the ideas and maybe stigmas that the disease is a death sentence, that if you catch it your life’s over?
Dr. Spivak: When AIDS was first described in the 1980s up until the mid-1990s, we did not have reliable treatment and this often was a cause of death in folks that were otherwise young and healthy and in the prime of their lives. The stigma, the stereotype, the concept that HIV AIDS is a death sentence certainly has its roots in truth. However, it’s 2016. Starting in the mid-1990s as we’ve discussed, 1995, ’96, the introduction of what we call combination anti-retroviral therapy, new drugs hit the market. It’s still what we use today. These are fabulous treatments for HIV. Our patients are living long healthy lives. They have to take the medicines every day.
Untreated absolutely it is devastating to the immune system. It leads to what we call opportunistic infections and ultimately to death. We saw that very graphically in the first decade and a half of this illness. However, what we see today with patients that are able to come in to our clinic, get access to care, take their medicines on a regular basis is that they are leading long, healthy, productive lives and are doing fabulously well.
Interviewer: What’s one of the top things that you would suggest for people to have done on this World AIDS Day?
Dr. Spivak: Oh absolutely I think the most important thing that people can do is get tested. I say that because the vast majority of the United States population has never had an HIV test. Now most people may not be actively at risk for HIV which is to say they’re not practicing unsafe sex, they may not be injecting drugs, but we do know and there’ve been a number of studies that have shown that there are quite a number of people living today who have HIV who are not diagnosed. That’s a tragedy on a number of fronts. We’ve talked about the ability to get these folks treated. It ultimately will affect their health. They’re also at great risk of spreading the disease.
So, I think the test we have for HIV is one of the best diagnostic tests in modern medicine. It’s incredibly accurate. A negative test in the setting of someone who’s not at risk for HIV is very reassuring. It sits on their medical chart and they never need to get tested again. We’re trying to get most people from zero to one to get tested. Of course the few folks who may have been at risk in the past or still practicing high risk behaviors with regard to HIV, and we’re able to identify them and diagnose them with HIV, we’re really going to be able to not only help them but help potentially partners help them from spreading the disease.
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Yesterday I had to pee really badly. I was at a coffee shop. the person before me did not flush the toilet as there was fesces in there.so, i flushed the toilet but one small tiny piece of fesces came back up. I did pee anyhow because I had to badly but I peed standing up, not sitting down. A few squirts of water reached my leg and vaginal area while the tiny piece of fesces was in there. If the person before me was hiv infected, can that be contagious. Please advise. Thanks for your help doctor.
“Fesces”????? What’s that?
Feces that does not contain visible blood is not considered a risk for HIV transmission. Backsplash from an untidy tidy bowl is not an HIV risk! See below.
A REAL Donation! (BACKSPLASH, TOILET WATER, 2009) Mar 26, 2009
I’m actually going to make a real donation and not just claim to. I will donate $40 for a simple Q&A.
I recently had to use a public restroom at a park. DISGUSTING to say the least! I didn’t sit on the toilet, I popped a squat and peed. As I was peeing I felt backsplash on my back side. When I finished, I looked in the toilet and noticed the WHOLE inside of the toilet FULL of blood. If the blood backsplashed into my anus or vagina would there be a risk? I also have HSV-2 (GENITAL HERPES) DOES THIS INCREASE THE RISK??
Thank you for the help, I pray that you answer my question. Karmic cheers!
(please add to) A REAL Donation (Submitted Mar 20, 2009)
I will add another $20 to my primary donation. Please add this to my last post..
I forgot to make it clear, if there is a risk of the backsplash hitting my anus or vagina (having HSV-2) If the blood in the toilet was that of HIV infected blood.
I’m sure you knew I was talking about HIV infected blood, I just wanted to note that!
Thank you again for your time!
Response from Dr. Frascino
Her we go again; another toilet backsplash question. Your HIV risk from squatting, peeing and getting backsplashed in a disgusting public restroom are nonexistent, even if you noted blood on the “WHOLE inside of the toilet” and even if you have HSV-2, OK? If you aren’t having unsafe sex with an HIV-positive person in the porta-potty, you aren’t at risk for contracting the virus there, OK? (See below.)
Thanks for your donation to the Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation (www.concertedeffort.org).
Be well. Stop worrying!
Archive was faster (BACKSPLASH, TOILET WATER) Oct 27, 2008
I have read almost all the archive, and among all what I had ready there are two or three posts that I really admired. In fact, they do not just answer my questions, but it has explained to me a lot of things that I did not know. I urge everyone to read the archive before posting their questions. Actually I have been asking you for 15 days now, and did not get a single reply, whilst after having read the archive, I noticed that you had already replied to all my questions, and you have the full right to neglect my already answered questions.
Here below are the posts and extracts that reply my questions
should point out that by taking time to reassure you once again, someone else’s question will have to go unanswered. You shouldn’t be apologizing to me, but rather to the poor guy who won’t even get his first question answered, because you couldn’t accept the very obvious link between “nonexistent risk” and “No way. No how.” Please note there is only one of me and gazillions of “yous.” Rather than wondering how I keep my patience while continuing to receive numerous requests for me to merely repeat myself, I would ask that you and other chronic posters consider becoming just a bit more reasonable, OK?
Please I beg your pardon.
Now you can either continue to read the below or just end this post at this stage. But in any case please let me know.
Dr. I am not playing the smart, but I really appreciate (all though that all the posts I have read, made it clear for me that I am not at risk) if you can really answer the below two questions just so that I can proof to my wife that I am not at risk, who is really rejecting me.
Question Number 1:
that has come into my mind after being at the Lab for a blood test. i have to admit that i have OCD and mianly for what is called HIV, so i am not sure if my question could be related to My theoratical exposure but out of curiosity if i may ask: during a blood test or blood drawing usually you have the Needle, the Platic Holder and the tube as tools. i know that the Vacuum Tubes and Needles should be sterilzed and New, but what about the plastic Holder?!?!?!?. i am much concerned that probably the lab technician during the blood test has used an old (used) plastic holder. what if such holder had blood on i from the previous patient?!?!? i know that the needle is covere from the side where it goes though the plastic holder, but what if little blood goes out from the hole that the needle makes while pricking the tube? if the blood was dry, will that cause a risk? is it normal that Lab uses same plastic holder each time? is it that costly to have a new one evrytime or to sterilize them?
finally please Doctor, is my exposure considered risky?
yesterday, i arrived home and rush to the toilet. while doing “it”, i had a splash back water landing onto my butt (sorry for using such words but my english is not very good). it did not reach my penis nor my annus, but while wiping it, it may have got there. my fear is that the cleaning lady was at my house 4 or 5 hours before that incident, and i am not sure if she had used the bathroom and was in her period. Say, she was HIV+, had her period and used the bathroom, and i had a flash-back on my mucous skin will that cause infection? i know that my chances are so little that i should not think of, but i was wondering if HIV can live in toilet bowel for 4 or 5 hours, especially that we use cubes in the toilet as detergent but i am not sure if that would dilute the virus if existed, since the cube was almost melted, and the flush was not working well however, the water inside seemed to be clean . Hum, the cleaning lady is of 50 old, so I am not sure if she is on menopause, or perimenopause which that would increase the chance of her being in her period.
Dr. i beg you respond this time.
Thanks. in advance, and i still owe a donation for your organization, but please bear with me.
Response from Dr. Frascino
I’m delighted you read the archives and found the information and reassurance you needed. Hopefully others will do the same.
Regarding your specific questions:
There is no risk of contracting HIV from getting blood drawn. Period. The plastic holder does not come into contact with blood. “Universal precautions” have been in place for years to protect health care workers from being infected by patients and vice versa. I’ve discussed this many times in the archives. Are you sure you’ve read “almost all the archives?”
Another “backsplash” question? Now I’m really questioning your claim that you read the archives at all. I’ll post below only a small sampling of questions from the archives that address this QTND (question that never dies). Your HIV risk is nonexistent for both of your worries.
Hiv transmission or paranoia Dec 9, 2007
I have been so paranoid with hiv in the last three years that it has really changed my life for the worst. I had unprotected sex three years ago which started this whole thing and went threw several tests and they all came back negative. I am now in a serious relationship with my boyfriend and we have unprotected sex only with each other and we were both tested before we starting doing anything. I’m really scared because of an incident that happened to me today at work, I was using the restroom and doing a number 2 and I felt a drop or two of water hit my left butt cheek when I left the washroom I starting thinking some crazy things again! my question is what if there was infected hiv blood in the toilet and when I was wiping myself could it be possible that I could transfer that blood onto the toilet paper and into my anus? I get to nervous with this topic and I always think I have it when these little things happen and I wish I could stop worrying about this because it really affects my day to day living if you know of anything I can do to help me with this obsession I would really appreciate it thanks. I would also love to donate some money as well if you could please let me know how I could do it.
Response from Dr. Frascino
Your HIV risk from the backsplash of your “number 2” droppings with or without wiping is completely nonexistent. I’ve covered this topic numerous times before. Check the archives! The only way you can contract HIV in a public restroom is to have unsafe sex with an HIV-positive person in the stall, OK?
Donation information for The Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation can be found on the foundation’s Web site, www.concertedeffort.org.
As for your recurrent unwarranted and completely irrational fear, I would recommend you try psychological counseling. Ask your general medical doctor for a referral. Irrational fears be they HIV, flying, spiders, snakes or ever having a president as bad as Dubya again are incredibly common. Appropriate counseling can help you confront and conquer these irrational anxieties.
Checked the archive–Question almost answered, but not quite Apr 12, 2005
Dear Dr. Bob,
First off, I’d like to thank you for the suggestion to check the archive before asking: just reading others’ questions has allowed me to put my own fears into greater perspective. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
However, I would still like to present my question and scenario.
While making a long drive across the country, I stopped at a fast food joint for some food and a break. I also desperately needed the restroom (I know you’re groaning right now . . . sorry). Anyways, I practically ran in, opened the first stall, urinated with great force from a squat (I know, I know, but when I don’t have the option or time to assess the seat, I sometimes do it), but then noticed that the toilet I had used was FULL of menstrual blood (seriously, it was prodigious). Apparently it had been lurking at the bottom, probably settled underneath some toilet paper, and my recent activity had stirred it up again.
Anyways, I don’t think I was the victim of “splash-back,” but what if I had been? All the other questions about toilet menstrual blood in this forum seem to be about material on the seat, not free-flowing blood mixed with toilet water. What if I had defecated and received a splash right back into my anus?
I know many women worry about this question, and as much as you hear that public restrooms are of no risk, women encounter blood within them fairly frequently (much more so than most men imagine). I thought I had convinced myself that I was unlikely to contract anything in a restroom (squatting notwithstanding), but then this happened and made me question that assumption.
Please help (donation pending),
Public Toilet Troubled
Response from Dr. Frascino
Hello Public Toilet Troubled,
Another QTND (Question That Never Dies)!
OK, one more time, here we go . . . . You can not get HIV form a public toilet (with or without menstrual blood in the toilet, with or without backsplash ugh!), unless, of course, you have unsafe sex with an HIV positive person while in the stall, OK?
Thank you for your donation! Now “flush” those unwarranted worries away! Oh, and please don’t write back and tell me you are also still worried about mosquitoes too. OK?
USA, you should be proud of doctor Robert Frascino and follow his example. a man of honour. Apr 8, 2006
I want to tell you that you are an inspiration for all the people in the world with AIDS. You chose your path and instead of being selfish and turn only to you, you chose to help the others, you are truly an example to follow. Sorry for my English I write you from Barcelona,spain, I am a school teacher but I always tell my students about importance of preventing AIDS and the importance of helping the others and give a little bit of what we have received from god.
I read your posts all the days. I also organized a brigade of my students and I take them every 15 days to help in a clinic in which they have AIDS patients and other terminal patients but most of them have AIDS:
They often ask me questions about transmission and they are sometimes concerned about the contact they have with the patients, because sometimes they cry on their shoulders, sometimes they have to hug them, I always tell them that casual contact is not a way of transmission as you say in all of your posts. They ask me a lot and I always answer according to your responses from this web page. I only want to say that in one point I do not know what to answer them and the responses I have seen in the site do not explain why the answers are in that sense: they often ask me their concern about going to the bathroom in the clinic in which we help, they say and I have red it that, feces contain AIDS, and also I know that terminal patients defecate with blood in their feces.
What my students often ask me is what if they have cuts on their back parts of their body ( near the anus or thebutt (sorry I do not know how to say it in a formal way jaja), or what if they have hemorrhoids that bleed every time they go to the bathroom ( not so rare due to the lowest amount of fibers consumed in spain) and in the cases described a splash with some blood or feces (which will not be rare) comes in direct contact with blood of my students. I always tell them not to worry because you always say in your posts that there is absolutely no risk in contracting AIDS in public bathrooms, expect having unprotected sex in bathrooms (that s what I say to them) but I don t know why you cannot be infected via the situations that I described ( I am myself not very convinced that you cannot get AIDS by sharing a bathroom with an infected person.) I also saw a post written in 1997 and anwered by Mr krull in which a women asks if you can get aids by getting a direct splash in a bathroom where a previous women left some blood from her period and Mr krull answered that if blood and blood comes in a direct contact anything is possible. However he told the women that there is no case registered of getting AIDS that way.
So to summarize all of the foregoing mentioned I only want to know why you cannot get AIDS by the situations I describe previously to be able to explain my students ( as you say that you cannot get AIDS by using public bathroom), and also does AIDS survive well in the water?, like I said for example in a public bathroom. (I know it does not survive well in the air). I also want to thank you for the time you are taking from reading this questions and I want to say to you that I am organizing a fund raising and will donate part of it to your cause. I promise you that because I am one of your biggest fans, they way you treat your forum with humor and your patience to answer questions is admirable, I admire you a lot.
José. Barcelona, spain.
Response from Dr. Frascino
Hola José from Barcelona,
Thank you for your kind comments.
To answer your question, HIV does not live very long at all outside the body, whether in air, water or public toilets. If an HIV+ patient did have blood in his/her feces, it would instantly be diluted in the toilet bowl and also not survive outside the body. Consequently the chance of getting fresh HIV-infected blood into a freshly bleeding wound via backsplash or whatever would be so remote as to be essentially nonexistent. We have been closely monitoring the HIV/AIDS pandemic for 25 years and there has never been a case of HIV transmission via this route.
It’s certainly appropriate to advise your students to avoid contact with infected bodily fluids (blood, semen, cervical secretions, etc.), but they should not be concerned about using the restroom, even if they get backsplashed and have a hemorrhoid or whatever. Also, you can remind them there is no risk from some fluids, such as sweat and tears. You can find a wealth of information on how HIV is and is not transmitted on this Web site and its related links. Perhaps printing out some of this material for your kids might help. I’m delighted you have taken the initiative to organize these volunteer trips to the clinic. The lessons your students are learning there are invaluable. You and your students are to be commended and have my heartfelt thanks for demonstrating compassion to those in need.
Risk of HIV from using the bathroom?
Quite the beauty salon conversation topic! While HIV is a serious infection, it is not a particularly strong virus when it is outside of a human body — which includes contact with bathroom fixtures. In fact, it can’t live very long outside of an infected person. So, the answer to the question you’ve asked is that no precautions need to be taken to avoid the risk of HIV transmission when you’re utilizing the lavatory. It’s been well established that the HIV virus is transmitted in the following ways:
- Bodily fluid exchange (i.e., semen, vaginal, or cervical fluids) with an infected person —These fluids must enter an uninfected person’s body through mucous membranes, cuts, or other openings (mucous membranes line the vagina, rectum, urethra, and the mouth)
- Infected blood transmission through intravenous, intramuscular, or subcutaneous injection (i.e., using infected needles)
- From an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, during delivery, or through breastfeeding
That being said, HIV is not transmitted via casual contact. A person cannot transmit HIV through things like handshakes, hugs, or sharing a plate of nachos. The virus also cannot live or reproduce on inanimate objects, such as toilet seats or sinks. Additionally, contact with saliva, tears, or urine or bites from insects will not transmit the virus.
The only way a person could get HIV from “the facilities” is if s/he is having unprotected sex with an infected person in the bathroom, or if s/he has an open wound that comes into contact with the blood of an infected person when in the bathroom. For more information on HIV transmission, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. The next time you’re due for a trim, you can advise your stylist that s/he can use the facilities, as well as continue to cut hair, without risking HIV-infection.
How long does HIV survive in water?
Q: If HIV-infected blood is mixed with water or some other fluid, then how long does the virus survive?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can survive outside the human body for several weeks,with virus survival being influenced by the virus titre (or viral load), volume of blood, ambient temperature, exposure to sunlight and humidity. HIV-1 viability in blood slowly decays and the reduction in viability is more rapid when there is less blood and a lower titre of virus in the blood and when the temperature is higher. HIV cannot survive outside the body unless it is sealed within a container. Therefore, a pin -prick, even if it were tainted with HIV, would be an extremely inefficient means of transmission of infection. Health care workers who are pricked with needles and medical instruments have a very low rate of infection (only 0.3%). Viable HIV-1 can be recovered from blood in syringes even after periods of storage in excess of 1 month.HIV has been isolated from blood, semen and other body fluids from infected individuals as both free virions (cell-free virus) and from infected cells (cell-associated virus).There are reports of survival of cell-free HIV in effluent water <12 hours followed by a reduction in titre 1- to 2-log in 24-48 hours.The infectivity of cell-associated HIV reduces rapidly after exposure to distilled water.However, a sub-population of cell-associated HIV may remain infectious for up to 96 hours in distilled water.
Read: Can a perosn get infected with HIV with kissing?
HIV infected blood mixed in water: can it survive?
Q: Public toilets, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections
HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections are NOT transmitted via public toilets.
As for other sexually transmitted infections, the key thing to remember is that sexually transmitted diseases are sexually transmitted. You will not have risk from a toilet seat. Part of this is because infectious fluid/cells will die out in the open air before you could possibly come in contact with them.
The following goes into more detail as to how HIV is transmitted: Blood, pre-cum, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk all contain high concentrations of HIV, and all have been linked to transmission of HIV.
Saliva, tears, sweat, and urine can have the virus in them, but in such small concentrations that nobody has ever been infected through them. However, if any body fluid is visibly contaminated with blood, the risk of transmission exists.
The HIV virus must get into the bloodstream in order to infect you. If it doesn’t get into the bloodstream, you will not get the infection. Blood, pre-cum, semen, vaginal secretions, or breast milk must have direct access to your bloodstream in order to infect you. Activities where this can happen include vaginal intercourse (both partners), anal intercourse (both partners), giving oral sex, sharing needles (IV, tattoo, hormone or steroid injections etc.), and rarely through receiving a blood transfusion. HIV can also be transmitted from mother to child. HIV is NOT transmitted through any form of casual contact (including public toilets).
To help you assess your own risk we would like you to think about you’re the Four Principles of HIV transmission. All four of these principles must be in place before HIV infection can occur:
1. EXIT: HIV must exit a person who is already infected with HIV, generally though blood, semen, or vaginal fluid.
2. SURVIVE: HIV must be in an environment in which it can survive. The ideal environment for HIV is in the body. HIV cannot survive long outside the body.
3. SUFFICIENT: There must be a sufficient amount of HIV to cause infection
4. ENTER: HIV must enter the bloodstream in order for infection to occur.
You can think about these 4 criteria for transmission, you’ll be able to determine whether you’re at risk for HIV or not. Let me re-emphasize that HIV has never been transmitted via toilet seats, toilet water or sewage water, since the virus cannot survive outside the human body for more than a few minutes.
If you have any concerns, you can ask yourself the following questions:
Did any open cut or break in your skin, or any mucous membrane, come into direct contact with someone else’s blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk on the toilet seat? Or, did you have sex with anyone in the bathroom? If the answer is no, then you have not been exposed to a Sexually transmitted infection (STI). STI’s are called STI’s because they’re sexually transmitted. Using a public toilet and having sex are not the same thing.
If you still have any doubts, we suggest that you discuss them with one of the counselors at the Anonymous Clinic or Men’s Health Clinic.