Kissed by someone with HIV — infected?

Originally Published: November 1, 1993 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: March 17, 2015
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Dear Alice,

Although this may sound like a really silly question coming from a graduate student, it's something I need to find out. A couple of weeks ago I was at a party. A "gay" friend of my came over to me and kissed me near my mouth. As it turns out, this person was recently diagnosed as having the AIDS virus. Now, I am completely paranoid. I am a monogamous, as well as an incredibly responsible individual. Please let me know if I need to be "tested," or if I am worrying in vain. I hope you take the time to answer this question, because I am sure there are plenty of people who share the same concern.

Is it the Kiss of Death?

Dear Is it the Kiss of Death?,

No, your friend's show of affection was not fatal, nor could it have transmitted HIV to you. Think about how rampant the virus would be if it could be transmitted by kissing, sharing glasses, utensils, or toothbrushes. It takes an infected person's bodily fluids (not including saliva) to contact your mucous membranes (inside the mouth, vagina, penis, or anus, or an open wound) to potentially transmit HIV, the AIDS virus. No cases of HIV transmitted by kissing alone have been reported — the reason being that the concentration of HIV in saliva is far too low to pose a risk of infection.

Here are the ONLY ways you can get HIV:

Contact with infected blood, semen, or vaginal and cervical secretions with mucous membranes or an open wound

Injection of infected blood or blood products (i.e. with shared needle)

Perinatal transmission (from infected mother to fetus) and breastfeeding (from infected mother to baby)

If you are practicing safer sex — vaginal, anal, and oral — and are not sharing needles, you are going a long way to protect yourself and your partner(s) from HIV transmission. Safer sex can include using latex barriers — like condoms and dams — during sex, talking with your partner(s) about sexual experiences, getting tested if you think you've been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and limiting the number of sexual partners you have.

If it's true that your friend has tested positive for HIV, s/he may need your friendship now more than ever. Don't worry, you can be a supportive friend, giving all the hugs and kisses you want, without contracting HIV. Take care,