Being a site devoted to both gays and vampires, it was inevitable that an article would be produced dealing with vampires and AIDS. In doing research for this article I've found that not much has been written on the subject, and that which has been written is, well, next to worthless. Many of the articles point out that both vampires and AIDS are associated with blood, sex and death, and then stop. In the rest, people ask the question "Can vampires get AIDS", and then give ridiculous answers based on vampires 'are'.
In the past, I have stayed away from answering the question of whether or not vampires exist, and will continue to avoid this. Really, it isn't important when dealing with this subject. If the vampires of myths and legends exist, then there are many, many different variations of vampires . Saying that vampires can get AIDS because they drink blood from multiple donors, or that they cannot get AIDS because they're all dead ignores this fact. The purpose of this article is to talk about how HIV and AIDS work, and how this could impact the myriad of different vampire types out there.
(warning, this is dry and boring, but very factual)
HIV, or the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus, is a virus that is transmitted in humans through exchange of bodily fluids, primarily through sexual contact . Most physicians agree that it is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). This virus is found throughout the world, and has had devastating impacts in many countries, including Romania and many countries of Africa. It is primarily a heterosexual disease throughout the world, although it is considered a homosexual disease in many first world countries, especially in the United States.
Viruses, in general, are tricky and finicky things. They are very tiny, relatively simple, chemical compounds that get into living cells and trick the cells into making more copies of the virus. This is a pretty amazing thing, but in order to do something that complex, and still remain small and simple, a virus can usually only work within a very, very small range of circumstances.
Viruses are very hard to be innoculated against, because of their simplicity. It sounds strange, but when an organism is simple, it can mutate easily into a slightly different virus. When this happens, any anti-viral that has been developed to kill the original virus may not work against the mutated virus.
HIV is a very interesting virus. It manages to trick the immune system in humans into helping the virus propagate itself. It doesn't do this through some inate virus intelligence though. Rather, it got lucky. The form that happened to develop happened to work this way. HIV depends on, as do all viruses, very specific features of a cell to help it enter the cell, merge with the cell's DNA, and reproduce. If a cell does not have these features, the virus cannot infect the cell. What these features are is the study of current research and is, really, not that interesting to the average person.
The short answer is 'maybe'. However, the short answer also includes this warning. If you think there is a chance, however remote, of getting AIDS, get tested. Since HIV easily mutates, there is no assurance that being different will protect you. Better safe than sorry!
With that said, the question is, can vampires get AIDS?
Many would-be vampires claim that their bodies are different and cannot be attacked by disease. This thinking is ridiculuous and wishful. The only way to know if you a resistant to all diseases is to try to get them all. HIV mutates quickly. So, any vampire saying they're immune to AIDS is either lying, or not too bright (or has a degree in biochemistry far beyond any mortal. If the last is true, it can be checked, just ask them how many amino acids exist, that'll show them up quickly).
All chemical viruses depend upon the transmission of cells from one being to another. Therefore vampires that feed solely on energy from a distance, such as psychic vampires, cannot get HIV. It is impossible. Ironically, it is unclear whether Incubi and Succubi, sexual vampires, can get HIV. Traditionally, they feed off of sexual energy, not sexual fluids. If no bodily fluids are exchanged, and only the sexual energy is drained, incubi and succubi are safe. However, if sex actually occurs, it is possible for them to contract HIV (more below).
As a caution to psychic vampires, as we've learned with computers, virus-like behaviors are not limited to the physical. It is entirely possible that there could be mental viruses out there that have not been noticed, defined or categorized yet. All it takes to create a virus is a chance occurrence that something can create a copy of itself. This is what propogation is. So, please remember, even if you are a psychic vampire and feel immune. Please keep safety first.
Most vampires, according to the literature, depend upon the exchange of fluids, such as blood, semen, menstrual fluids or breast milk. Imbibing fluids from an infected donor does put all vampires at risk for catching HIV. But, whether or not a vampire will contract HIV is dependant upon a few other factors.
Contracting HIV depends upon a having a specific set of DNA. All humans have at least 99.9% of their DNA in common. Monkeys have 95% of DNA in common with humans. Even yeast, the fungus that makes bread rise, has 50% of DNA in common with humans. HIV is so tightly coupled with human DNA, that it is unlikely that another species could contract it. Therefore, vampires that constitute a different race may very well be protected against catching HIV. But how would a vampire know if he/she were this type of vampire? Well, for one, this type of vampire could not convert humans into new vampires. He/she musthave a lineage. That is, a mom and dad that create a child from nothing. If the vampire is a converted human, then the lines get blurred. If human DNA can be converted to a different form of DNA, the difference cannot be too drastic... which means that an awful lot of DNA remains the same. If this is the DNA that the HIV virus affects, the vampire is at risk.
Even if the vampire is considered a different species altogether, this type of vampire is not completely safe either. HIV exists, but so does SIV (simian IV) in monkeys, FIV (feline IV) in cats and BIV (bovine IV) in cattle. Whether or not these strains are caused by the virus jumping species is still heavily debated, but the fact remains that viruses can develop in different species. If no strain of VIV (vampire IV) exists today, there is nothing that says it may not exist tomorrow).
Vampires of myth an legend are numerous and diverse. However, much of today's culture thinks of vampires in very specific terms. The current, Western, popular culture belief is of the vampire that drinks blood, is destroyed by sunlight, and has been popularized by Bram Stoker's Dracula. Can this type of vampire get AIDS? Unfortunately, there is enough variation to the myths and legends that it is impossible to say 'yes' or 'no' to whether or not this type of vampire may be susceptible.
HIV can only live within a very narrow range of environments. It is fragile and highly susceptible to chemical and physical agents and therefore does not survive well outside the human body (note: this means you cannot catch AIDS from a dirty toilet seat). Classic vampires are considered to be 'the living undead'. They die, and often times stay dead for three nights. They then return from the dead and are considered to be 'undead'.
:Little scientific information about vampires exist, but in general they are considered to be "as cold as death". If this is the case, they are also fairly safe from HIV. HIV can only live for 30 minutes at temperatures of 132.8F (56C), but it can live for 7-10 days at 39F (4C). However, at this temperature the virus requires proper concentrations of proteins to protect the virus from temperatures in this range, which are unlikely to exist in the average chilly vampire. The virus also has restrictions based on other factors, such as pH level, moisture, salinity, etc. Hence, vampires with unusual body chemistries are fairly unlikely to provide the right environment for HIV to replicate. But, it is unlikely that the average vampire has invested a lot of time or money into studying their biochemistry.
Classic vampires are said to live forever, be eternally young and resistant to all illnesses. Not only does this make it likely that vampires will have a very different body chemistry, but in not getting sick, vampires probably have a different form of immunity. HIV primarily infects T4 lymphocyte cells (helper cells), which are a subset of white blood cells. If a different type of immune system is present, it is unlikely that HIV would be able to adapt.
Again, this does not mean that these types of vampires are safe, just safer than people are. HIV is constantly mutating, and other viruses exist. Because this type of vampire does exchange bodily fluids, it is clear that vampires of this type are at risk of catching an FTD (feeding transmitted disease), but not necessarily HIV.
As a final word of warning, Stoker himself died of syphilis, another sexually transmitted disease. Please be careful, and read how to stay safe.
While 'Dracula'-type vampires arethe best publicized type of vampire, the type that is actually the most at risk are humans who drink human blood. For those reading in morbid fascination, yes some humans do drink human blood. And no, this does not make them immoral, cruel or otherwise degenerate... just different.
A human who drinks blood can get HIV, and can get it relatively easily. Blood can contain very high levels of HIV, and while the digestive tract contains enzymes and pH levels that help kill the virus, this may not be enough if drinking large amounts of blood. Even a taste may be enough to contract HIV. Peoples' mouths frequently have many tiny cuts. Brush your teeth or eat potato chips and you've got cuts in your mouth. As soon as blood touches the cut, you've got a perfect way to transmit the virus. This doesn't mean you'll contract the exist, just that you're playing the odds, and unlikely to win.
If drinking blood is something you do, or are thinking of doing, please read the section on staying safe.
As with sex, the only way to stay safe in terms of vampism is to completely abstain from exchanging body fluids. But, while this is the safest way to be, it is unlikely to gain many converts. If you must engage in forms of vampirism that involve exchanging fluids, there are many ways to minimize risk. The advice given here is based upon any HIV avoidance. Safe behaviors must be followed to minimize risk.
If there is anything missing from this article that you think would be helpful, or if the facts aren't up to date, please e-mail us.* HIV characteristics and limitations caused by environmental factors were gathered from information provided by the CDC.