Can I get HIV from using the facilities or from seeing my hairdresser?

Originally Published: October 27, 1995 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: May 5, 2011
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Dear Alice,

I have been asked by my hairdresser about the risks of contracting HIV when using the facilities. What are the precautions one should take for this problem? Are there any scientific papers addressing this question?

—Miguel

Dear Miguel,

While HIV is a serious infection, it is not a particularly strong virus when it is outside of a human body. In fact, it can't live very long outside of an infected person. The HIV virus is known to be transmitted only in the following ways:

  • Bodily fluid exchange with an infected person. Infected blood, semen, vaginal, or cervical fluids must enter an uninfected person's body through their mucous membranes, cuts, or other openings. Mucous membranes line the vagina, rectum, urethra, and the mouth.
  • Infected blood transmission through intravenous, intramuscular, or subcutaneous injection (i.e., using infected needles).
  • From an infected mother to her fetus during pregnancy or possibly during delivery.
  • From an infected mother to her infant during breastfeeding.

It is not possible to get HIV from casual contact. The virus is very weak, and does not exist for very long outside the mucous membranes of an uninfected person. It also does not live on inanimate objects, such as toilet seats. The only way a person could get HIV/AIDS from "the facilities" is if s/he is having unprotected sex with an infected person in the bathroom, or if s/he has an open wound that comes into contact with the blood of an infected person when in the bathroom. No case of AIDS has been found to be caused through saliva, cough spray, sneeze spray, tears, urine, or insect bites. There is no known risk of HIV contraction from an HIV-infected person to family members, co-workers, and schoolmates, other than sexual partners and children born of infected mothers.

The United States Public Health Service has conducted studies and made recommendations regarding HIV infection in the workplace. The occupations considered include food service, personal service (such as hairdressers), and health care workers. The U.S. Public Health Service found no evidence of transmission from personal service workers to their clients and vice-versa. For more information on HIV transmission, you can call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National STD and AIDS Hotline at 1.800.342.AIDS (-2437) [24/7].

You can advise your stylist to rest assured that they can use the facilities, as well as continue to cut hair, without risking HIV-infection.

Alice

February 21, 2003

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Dear Alice, Love you, Alice! You rock! In regards to the HAIRDRESSER — AIDS — FACILITIES? question, you did not mention breast milk as one of the fluids containing HIV and breast-feeding as a...
Dear Alice, Love you, Alice! You rock! In regards to the HAIRDRESSER — AIDS — FACILITIES? question, you did not mention breast milk as one of the fluids containing HIV and breast-feeding as a potential transmission method, and eyes as a potential opening for HIV transmission (I know, risk is low, but it's still there). Once more, I can't congratulate you enough on your awesome work, and thank you in the name of all people — big and small, black and white, gay and straight, and everything in between!