HIV-Positive visitor — What are the risks?

Originally Published: June 4, 2004
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Alice,

A friend has HIV. Should I allow him to stay in our home, swim in our pool, bathe in our bathrooms, etc.? In other words, what are the dangers of transmission? I am especially concerned as I have small children. Thank you.

— Feeling Ignorant and Want to be Informed

Dear Feeling Ignorant and Want to be Informed,

Many people are uninformed about the risks of getting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Fear and a lack of information (or the abundance of misinformation) sometimes leads to stress that can strain relationships with people who are HIV positive. Your concerns are understandable, especially when you are unsure about risks to your children. And your decision to ask questions, rather than rely on myths or hearsay, is a wise move. You have made the right step in educating yourself about HIV. As well as being a good friend, now you can pass along fact-based information to your children so that they can be safe.

Maybe these few things will ease your mind. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that HIV transmission in a household setting is incredibly rare. NO scientific evidence shows transmission occurring through casual contact (e.g., shaking hands, playing basketball, swimming in the same pool, using the same bathrooms, etc...) or via air or water.

HIV is transmitted through contact with infected blood or other bodily fluids (semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk). The virus can also exist in urine, saliva, and tears. According to the CDC, however, no evidence has been found to show that transmission has ever occurred through contact with urine, saliva, or tears. Also, HIV has never been found in the sweat of an infected person.

Casual contact, similar to the kind you mentioned in your question, poses no risk to you and your family. Maybe now you and your family can relax and enjoy some quality time with your friend.

If you remain concerned, you can check out the CDC's fact sheet called "HIV and Its Transmission," or read the Related Q&As listed below.

Alice