Anonymous on August 12, 2011

Can I get HIV from sharing food or utensils?

My friend and I were eating Japanese food and she took the chopsticks out of her mouth and stuck them in my hot noodle soup. I know for a fact that she has had multiple partners and hasn’t been tested for AIDS. I also have a small blister in my mouth that I’m worried makes me more susceptible to STDs. Should I be concerned?

answered by Daniel Perlman, MD, MBA on August 12, 2011

Thank you for your question. You’re not alone in your concerns about sharing food or utensils and STD risk. Allow me to help…

Can you get HIV from sharing food? No. You cannot get HIV from eating utensils, plates and the like.

That said, you’re right that having an open wound or sore in your mouth can increase your risk of catching an STD from someone who’s infected. While you have a blister, it's a good idea to avoid deep (French) kissing or unprotected oral sex with anyone who may have an STD. And, to protect your health, I strongly recommend that you always use a condom or dental dam with any sexual activity…even after the wound in your mouth has healed.

You mentioned your friend hasn’t been tested for AIDS...for clarity, let’s talk about the difference between HIV and AIDS. HIV is a virus that weakens the immune system and makes it harder for the body to fight off infections. If someone has untreated HIV for a long time, it’s possible for that person to develop AIDS, but many HIV-positive people do not have AIDS.

In other words, instead of testing for AIDS, the tests will look for HIV. Luckily, once HIV has been diagnosed through HIV testing, people who are HIV-positive can begin treatment right away. HIV treatments are designed to slow down the progression of HIV to AIDS and they now allow people to live longer, healthier lives.

Which is why it’s important for you and your friend to get tested for HIV and other STDs – if you’re worried that your friend has been exposed to HIV, talk to her about STD testing. Perhaps you can go together. Testing for other common STDs may also be a good idea. The sooner you both get tested and treated, if necessary, the better for your overall health.

Do you know your current STD status? If you haven’t been tested recently, I recommend that you get tested for common STDs which include herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and HIV. The sooner an STD is identified, the sooner you can get treatment and go on with your life.

Thanks again for your questions about HIV risks. For more information about HIV symptoms, complications, testing and treatment, check out our Expert Guide to HIV. Our guide to STD Basics might also be helpful to you and our friend.

Here’s wishing you both 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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