Impossible routes of HIV transmission

The HIV virus cannot be transmitted through:

  • Unbroken healthy skin, because cells vulnerable to HIV infection do not exist on the surface of the skin.
  • Coughing or sneezing, because HIV cannot be airborne. It is not present in the tiny particles of moisture sneezed or coughed out of someone's mouth.
  • Spitting, because HIV cannot be transmitted in saliva.
  • A healthy, undamaged mouth, because cells vulnerable to HIV infection are not present in the mouth.
  • Unbroken barriers, such as a latex condom or the female condom, because these barriers cannot be penetrated by HIV.
  • Mosquitoes, because although these insects suck blood, they do not regurgitate blood containing live HIV into the bodies of other victims.
  • Sharing cutlery, plates or cups, because HIV cannot be transmitted in saliva.
  • Social contact with people with HIV, because HIV is not transmitted by touch or through the air.
  • Through animal bites, because animals do not carry HIV.
  • By caring for people with HIV.
  • By donating blood in the UK.
  • By contact with small quantities of dried blood, because HIV will not be present in sufficient quantity (all infections through blood not injected or transfused have occurred where large quantities of blood splashed onto the broken skin of other people).
  • Through swimming pools, showers, washing machines, because HIV will be killed by chemicals in disinfectant and detergent, or simply just washed away.
  • By mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, because HIV is not present in saliva.
  • By touching objects such as telephones, because HIV is not transmitted by touch.
  • By using the same lavatory as people with HIV, because even if someone had bled into the lavatory, the water would immediately dilute the virus. Nor would HIV be picked up from blood on the lavatory seat.

Over-broad and imprecise categories such as 'sex' or 'promiscuity' or 'drug abuse' are not in themselves a risk.

Next review date