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Objects and surfaces

Question: 

Hello Helpline, I have 2 silly questions. Please give me the answers.
1) One cannot acquire HIV from any inanimate objects in any circumstances, excluding ONLY 2 objects: syringe and sex toy. Is that right? Is there any exception else?
2) Any surface is always safe for HIV when any part of body contacts with it and starts bleeding, isn’t it? Is there any exception for the surface?
Thank you.

Answer: 

Hello and thanks for reaching out to the AIDS Vancouver Helpline.

Your questions are definitely not silly, so not to worry there!

Let's talk about the first question. I'll direct you to the HIV transmission equation, shown below:

HIV TRANSMISSION EQUATION

BODY FLUID
+
ACTIVITY
+
DIRECT ACCESS TO BLOODSTREAM
• blood (including menstrual) • unprotected anal or vaginal intercourse • vagina
• semen • sharing needles • anus
• pre-cum • mother to child (in specific cases) • urethra in the penis
• rectal secretions • open cuts and sores (in theory)
• vaginal fluids • other mucosal membranes
• breast milk • points of needle injection

= RISK OF HIV TRANSMISSION

In order for HIV to be transmitted, there are 3 factors that need to be present: a body fluid such as blood or semen, an activity such as sharing needles, and direct access for the virus to enter the bloodstream. It sounds like you're aware that for the most part, one cannot acquire HIV from inanimate objects. The reason for this is that, once exposed to the air, HIV is no longer able to transmit. You may wonder, then, how it's possible to acquire HIV from syringes and sex toys. When needles are shared, it's possible that blood can enter and remain in the barrel of the syringe and then enter the veins of the next user (if the needles are not cleaned). Through this manner, HIV doesn't actually become exposed to the air. Similarly, some sex toys are made of porous materials, and so the virus can get trapped within the pores of the material and then transfer to the next user without coming into contact with the air. You can reduce the risk of acquiring HIV from sex toys by using sex toys made of non-porous material, such as glass, cleaning them between uses, and/or covering them with a condom when using them. CATIE.ca is a great website that provides more information on this topic.

In terms of your second question, the above information should be able to help answer it. Even if the surface was made of a porous material, there would be no direct access for the virus to enter the bloodstream without first coming into contact with air. Therefore, one would not be able to acquire HIV from coming into contact with an inanimate object such as a surface.

Thank you for contacting the AIDS Vancouver Helpline.

Take care,

Erin

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