No, you can’t get human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from kissing because the virus can’t be transmitted through saliva. But other bodily fluids may spread HIV.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system. HIV is contagious, but most of your daily activities pose no risk of HIV transmission.
HIV can spread only through certain bodily fluids and only if the person living with HIV has a detectable viral load in their system. These fluids include:
- vaginal fluid
- anal fluid
- breast milk
It can’t be transmitted through saliva, sweat, skin, feces, or urine.
So, there’s no risk of getting HIV from regular social contact, such as closed-mouth kissing, shaking hands, sharing drinks, or hugging, because those bodily fluids aren’t exchanged during these activities.
The most common way to acquire HIV is through sex, including oral, vaginal, and anal sex, without a condom or other barrier method if the person living with HIV has a detectable viral load.
HIV can also be transmitted by sharing needles with someone living with HIV who has a detectable viral load.
Pregnant people living with HIV can transmit the virus to their child during pregnancy, vaginal delivery, and breastfeeding. But many people living with HIV have healthy, HIV-negative babies with good prenatal care.
HIV isn’t like a cold or flu virus. It can only be transmitted when certain fluids from a person living with HIV who has a detectable viral load move directly into the bloodstream or through the mucous membranes of an HIV-negative person.
Tears, saliva, sweat, and casual skin-to-skin contact can’t transmit HIV.
There’s also no need to be concerned about getting HIV from any of the following.
Saliva carries very small traces of the virus, but this isn’t considered harmful. Saliva contains enzymes that break down the virus before it can spread. Even “French” or open-mouth kissing won’t transmit HIV.
But blood does carry HIV. In the rare case that a person living with HIV has blood in their mouth from open sores — and the person receiving an open-mouth kiss has an actively bleeding wound in the mouth too (such as bleeding gums, cuts, or open sores) — an open-mouth kiss may transmit the virus. But there’s only
HIV doesn’t spread through saliva or the air. HIV can’t be contracted or spread through CPR.
Through the air
HIV doesn’t spread through the air like a cold or flu virus. So, HIV can’t be transmitted if someone with it sneezes, coughs, laughs, or breathes nearby.
The virus doesn’t live on the skin of people living with HIV and can’t live in an active state for very long outside the body. Shaking the hand of a person with HIV won’t spread the virus.
Sharing toilets or baths
HIV isn’t spread through urine or feces, sweat, or skin. Sharing a toilet or bath with someone living with HIV carries no risk of transmission. Sharing swimming pools, saunas, or hot tubs with people living with HIV is also safe.
Sharing food or drinks
Because HIV isn’t spread by saliva, sharing food or drinks, including water fountains, won’t spread the virus. Even if the food has blood containing HIV on it, exposure to air, saliva, and stomach acid would destroy the virus before it could be transmitted.
Sweat doesn’t transmit HIV. You can’t acquire HIV by touching the skin or sweat of a person living with HIV or sharing exercise equipment with that person.
From insects or pets
The “H” in HIV stands for “human.” Mosquitoes and other biting insects can’t spread HIV. Bites from other animals, like a dog, cat, or snake, also can’t transmit the virus.
If a person living with HIV spits in food or drinks, there’s no risk of transmitting HIV because saliva doesn’t transmit the virus.
HIV can’t be transmitted through urine. Sharing a toilet or coming into contact with the urine of someone living with HIV doesn’t pose a risk of transmission.
Dried blood or semen
HIV can’t survive for very long outside the body. If there’s contact with blood (or other bodily fluids) that has dried or has been outside the body for a while, there isn’t a risk of transmission.
A person living with HIV can only transmit the virus through certain bodily fluids if they have a detectable viral load. These fluids include:
- vaginal fluid
- anal fluid
- breast milk
For virus transmission to occur, these fluids must then make contact with a mucous membrane (such as the vagina, penis, rectum, or mouth), make contact with a cut or injury, or be injected straight into the bloodstream.
The vast majority of the time, HIV is spread through the following activities:
- having anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV without using a condom or other barrier method or taking medications to prevent HIV transmission
- sharing needles or sharing equipment used to prepare drugs for injection with someone who has HIV
It’s not common, but HIV may also be spread in these ways:
- through a person living with HIV who transmits the virus to their child during pregnancy, delivery, and breastfeeding (but many people living with HIV can have healthy, HIV-negative babies by getting good prenatal care that includes being tested for HIV and beginning HIV treatment, if needed)
- through accidentally being stuck with an HIV-contaminated needle
In extremely rare cases, HIV can be transmitted in the following ways:
- oral sex, if a person with HIV ejaculates into their partner’s mouth and the partner has an open cut or lesion
- a blood transfusion or organ transplant that contains HIV (the chance of this happening now is very rare because blood and organ/tissue is
meticulously testedfor diseases)
- food that’s been pre-chewed (pre-masticated) by a person with HIV, but only if blood from their mouth mixes with food while being chewed and the person receiving the chewed food has an open wound in their mouth (the only reports of this have been between
caregivers and infants; there’s no reports of this kind of transmission among adults)
- a bite, if a person living with HIV bites and breaks the skin, causing extensive tissue damage (only a few cases of this have been documented)
- blood containing HIV coming in contact with a wound or an area of broken skin
- open-mouth kissing if both partners have bleeding gums or sores (in this case, the virus is transmitted through blood, not saliva), which has only been
reported once in 1997
- sharing tattoo equipment without sterilizing it between uses (there are no known cases in the United States of anyone contracting HIV this way)
Having a better understanding of HIV transmission not only prevents the spread of HIV but also the spread of misinformation. HIV can’t be spread through casual contact like kissing, shaking hands, hugging, or sharing food or drinks (as long as both people don’t have open wounds).
Even during anal or vaginal sex, using a condom or other barrier method correctly will prevent HIV from spreading since the virus can’t move through the latex of a condom or other barrier method.
While there isn’t a cure for HIV, advancements in medications for HIV have greatly reduced the chances of a person living with HIV passing the virus on to another person.
If you’re concerned that you may have shared bodily fluids with a person living with HIV, consider asking a healthcare professional about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP can help stop the virus from becoming an infection. It must be taken within 72 hours of the contact to be effective.