Q: Hi Doctor I just want to know something – can I get HIV when I eat soil mixed with urine and that urine is for someone who is HIV positive?
A: The more common variation of this story is being infected with HIV from eating food/fruits that have been ‘contaminated’ with HIV positive body fluids. That story has been making the rounds of the rumour mills since the early 2000s. The food/fruit has changed as it has circulated 😀 Is there any truth to this? No! Be careful about the pocket doctors who you listen to. Click on this link to read more about pocket doctors 😀
Thus far, there is no documented evidence that eating food and by extension, sand or soil contaminated with HIV can cause the infection or AIDS. The virus is just too fickle for this to happen. It dies too quickly and loses its ability to divide and multiply outside the human body. The added complication posed by the acidic juices in the stomach means that the viruses don’t stand a chance J The one food-related HIV transmission occurred when an HIV positive care-giver pre-chewed some food and then fed same to an infant. So, if you practice this, with or without HIV, please just stop. It’s not hygienic…if we were to just discuss this from first principles, right?
There is however, some evidence that oral contact with body fluids can lead to HIV. This is rare and usually involved sexual contact.
I would suggest, you get tested anyway. You don’t lose anything but infection through this route is unlikely.
Now, the next problem I see with your question is the issue of eating soil! Why would you do that? Was it in error? Constantly eating non-food items like chalk, hair, glue, sand, clay etc, generally called pica, could be associated with some disease conditions like iron deficiency anaemia. Moving from one (eating soil) to another non-food item (ice cubes), could certainly be suggesting that something is wrong. Other causes include pregnancy, poverty and conditions like autism.
The exact cause of pica has to be found out as it puts one at risk of:
- Bacterial and parasitic infection from eating sand
- Constipation by eating things like hair or even obstruction of the intestines!
For details of this condition, please click on these links:
I suggest you go visit the hospital to check your ‘blood level’ (haemoglobin level). This will give an idea as to whether this is due to iron deficiency. Your doctor will exclude other causes and in some cases, if this is a compulsive behavior, mental health physicians may be required.