Anonymous
Hi, read a few of your responses on exposure to air. had a query regarding the same. If exposure to air inactivates the virus, why is kissing with little blood present risk? Since our mouth has a lot of air at any given point of time would the exposure to air concept apply here as well. Asking this just for my knowledge and calm a bit of my nerves.

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Anonymous
Hi there, thanks for contacting us with your HIV related questions/concerns. We're happy to help!

So you're correct in that kissing with blood present MAY be a risk, however, generally a large amount of blood would have to be present, and it's still only a negligible to low risk. The reason for this is that saliva contains an enzyme that helps to break down viruses, so it provides protection. Additionally, the virus must have direct access to the bloodstream, via something such as major wounds from dental surgery. So although it may be a risk it's still quite unlikely, and HIV transmission is not seen commonly in this way.

In terms of the air, saying HIV becomes damaged by exposure to air is a very simplified explanation. This is a concept heavy in difficult biochemistry, but essentially, it's not just the air that damages viruses in the environment. Viruses need an optimal environment in order to be infectious and this is the environment that is found in their host's body. Anything outside of that is damaging to the virus. This includes the air, temperature, light, enzymes, and other factors that are found in the environment that contribute to the inactivation and damaging of viruses.

In terms of kissing, the reason that there may still be a very (slight) risk associated is because it's still in the body and if there's a significant amount of blood, there could potentially be direct contact with the blood and an entry point to the bloodstream, before the virus becomes damaged by these factors. This is because within the mouth there isn't likely to be as many of these damaging factors as outside of the body completely.

Essentially, this is a very difficult answer to give in simple terms, but the likelihood of this occurring is very slim, and transmission doesn't generally occur in this way.

I hope this helped!

Sincerely,

Christina

AIDS Vancouver Helpline/Online

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