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HIV and Insect Transmission
By Amy Otis, BSN, RN

From the beginning of the HIV epidemic, there was concern about transmission of the virus by biting and bloodsucking insects. Studies conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and elsewhere have shown no evidence of HIV transmission through insects - even in areas where there are many cases of AIDS and large populations of insects, such as mosquitoes. Lack of such outbreaks, despite intense efforts to detect them, supports the conclusion that HIV is not transmitted by insects.

The results of experiments and observations of insect biting behavior indicate that when an insect bites a person, it does not inject its own or a previously bitten person’s or animal’s blood into the next person bitten. Rather, it injects saliva, which acts as a lubricant or anticoagulant so the insect can feed efficiently. Such diseases as yellow fever and malaria are transmitted through the saliva of specific species of mosquitoes. However, HIV lives for only a short time inside an insect and, unlike organisms that are transmitted via insect bites, HIV does not reproduce (and does not survive) in insects. Thus, even if the virus enters a mosquito or another sucking or biting insect, the insect does not become infected and cannot transmit HIV to the next human it feeds on or bites. HIV is not found in insect feces.

There is also no reason to fear that a biting or bloodsucking insect, such as a mosquito, could transmit HIV from one person to another through HIV-infected blood left on its mouth parts. Two factors serve to explain why this is so: first, infected people don't have constant high levels of HIV in their bloodstreams and, second, insect mouth parts do not retain large amounts of blood on their surfaces. In addition, scientists who study insects have determined that biting insects normally do not travel from one person to the next immediately after ingesting blood. Rather, they fly to a resting place to digest this blood meal. - Sexual Health Resource

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

For More Information:

CDC National AIDS Hotline
Spanish: 1-800-344-SIDA
Deaf: 1-800-243-7889

CDC National Prevention Information Network:
P.O. Box 6003
Rockville, Maryland 20849-6003

Useful Telephone Resources:

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) National AIDS Hotline in the USA (toll-free, Eastern time):
English service: 1-800-342-2437 (7 days a week, 24 hours a day)
Spanish service: 1-800-344-7432 (daily 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.)
TDD service for the deaf: 1-800-243-7889 (10 a.m. to 10 p.m., M-F) August 2005


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