Anonymous on August 11, 2011

Can I get AIDS in a hot tub?

Last week, I had sex with my new girlfriend…she said she’s a virgin and hasn’t been tested. We were in the bathtub and used a condom. After we had sex, I took the condom off and fingered her in the water. My penis was also under the water. If my girlfriend is HIV-positive, could I get HIV from being in the tub with her? Can HIV survive underwater? Also, do condoms provide the same level of safety underwater?

answered by Daniel Perlman, MD, MBA on August 11, 2011

Thank you for the thoughtful questions…it’s obvious that your sexual health is important to you. Let’s take your questions one at a time.

Can you get HIV from a virgin? Yes. While virginity lowers the likelihood of your girlfriend being infected by HIV, the virus can also be spread by sharing needles, oral sex and through other risk factors.

In some cases, HIV has no symptoms…so, even though your girlfriend is at a low risk of the virus, the only way to know her status for sure is for her to get tested. And, it would be smart for you to get tested, as well.

Can HIV survive and infect in water? It is highly unlikely that the small amount of bodily fluids present in the bath could infect you. HIV researchers also agree that it’s difficult for HIV to survive long outside of the body...that said, testing is the only way to know for sure if you’re infected.

Do condoms work in water? While condoms do provide some protection underwater, there are also added risks. The water, heat or oils (like bubble bath or sunscreen) may increase the risk of your condom breaking or slipping off during sex. If your condom did not break or slip off, your chances of being at risk of STD (or getting your girlfriend pregnant) are low.

I encourage you and your partner to talk about STDs and STD testing. For a lot of people, sexual health can be a delicate subject. But it’s an important one to talk about – early and often. You’d be surprised how simply talking about each other’s sexual histories openly and honestly can improve a relationship.

When you bring up STD risks and testing, I encourage you to talk about getting tested together. Not only will this give you the peace of mind of knowing your overall STD status, but it will also communicate that you care about her health, too…and that you’re motivated to have a healthy relationship in which you take care of one another.

Remember that HIV and other STDs, like herpes, can sometimes be present in the body without symptoms. Even if you don’t have signs or symptoms of disease, it's still possible to have an STD. Regular testing is the only way to stay on top of your STD status…and if you do test positive for an STD, the sooner it’s detected, the sooner it can be treated, protecting you from potentially serious complications from STDs in future.

Back to your concern about HIV, specifically…I recommend that you visit our Expert Guide to HIV + AIDS for more information about HIV risks, symptoms, testing and treatment.

Thanks for writing. I wish you and your girlfriend the best of health.

Related info:

Daniel Perlman, MD, MBA

Dr. Perlman is a Colorado-based infectious disease specialist (including HIV and other STDs) in private practice at Greater Denver Infectious Diseases. Additionally, he is Assistant Clinical Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Dr. Perlman was educated at theUniversity of Maryland School of Medicine, and completed his residency in internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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