Anonymous on September 26, 2011

Maybe this is weird...but can you get HIV from licking dried blood?

I have a friend who has HIV. She has a girlfriend she has sex with. Her girlfriend licks dried blood off her arm. She says the virus is dead and can’t hurt her. Is that true? Can you get HIV from dried blood?

answered by Eric Christoff, MD, AAHIVM on September 26, 2011

Thanks for your question. I know you’re concerned for your friends and I’ll do my best to help with information about HIV and how to have safer sex with a partner who has HIV.

Can you get HIV from dried blood? Well, it’s unlikely, but possible. HIV can’t survive for long outside the human body. So dried blood, saliva and vaginal fluid don’t carry high risk. However, your friend should not take any unnecessary risks – and licking infected blood does carry some chance of getting HIV.

From what you said, I can understand where your friend’s girlfriend may be coming sounds like she wants to make sure that fear of HIV doesn’t control her life. But it’s also important for her to be cautious. She can still love and take care of her partner without taking unnecessary risks.

If your friends are having unprotected oral sex, there is also a risk of HIV transmission. Always using a dental dam during oral sex, not sharing sex toys and avoiding deep kissing if either partner has an open wound on ⎼  or in ⎼ their mouths can go a long way to reducing the risk. 

That said, because she’s in a high-risk sexual relationship, it’s a good idea for your friend’s girlfriend to get tested for HIV every six months. That way if she does happen to get HIV, she’ll be able to address the infection as soon as possible with her doctor. Remember, as long as she is having sex with an HIV-positive person, there will always be a risk of getting the virus – although it is smaller when they use protection. 

What about other STDs? Testing for other STDs is a good idea, too. Why? People with HIV are at a greater risk for other infections, and that includes STDs. Some common STDs they may want to be tested for include chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B and C, herpes 1 and 2, and syphilis.

The fact is, testing is the only way to know whether they have an STD, as many have no symptoms. And if your friends do have an STD, they can and should get treated right away. Treatment will help them avoid potentially serious health problems down the road like infertility or cervical cancer, and reduce the risk of passing STDs to each other. For more information about STD risk factors, complications, prevention and testing, see our Expert Guide to STD Basics.

Now that you know more about the topic, you may want to bring up these facts with your friends...HIV and STDs can be scary and uncomfortable topics for some people. But being gentle, open and honest about your concern for their well-being may be exactly what they need to practice safer sex and be more aware of their risks.

Your care and concern for your friends is admirable…if you or they have additional questions about HIV risks and prevention, visit our Expert Guide to HIV.

Related info:

Eric Christoff, MD, AAHIVM

Dr. Christoff is a practicing physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. His areas of expertise include the treatment of HIV and syphilis along with other STDs, the medical treatment of depression and chronic fatigue, and the specific health needs of gay and lesbian patients. Dr. Christoff was educated at the University of Toledo, College of Medicine and completed his residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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