HIV and hepatitis B virus (HBV) both can be transmitted via blood or bodily fluids, but HBV is about 50 to 100 times more easily acquired.

Both HIV and HBV are dangerous viruses, but HBV can be much more concentrated in blood or sexual fluid. That said, once contracted, HIV is more likely to be fatal than HBV.

Here’s what to know about the two conditions, including how to keep yourself and others safe from the viruses.

The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is considered much more resilient and contagious than HIV because:

  • It can live longer outside the body: Unlike hepatitis B, which can survive outside the human body for 7 or more days, HIV can’t live long at all on surfaces. While hepatitis B may be transmitted via blood on a shared pair of nail clippers, for instance, that’s not possible with HIV.
  • It can survive and be spread via dried liquids: Hepatitis B can be spread through wet or dried blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or breast milk, whereas HIV can’t be spread through dried substances.
  • It may (rarely) be spread via saliva: In very rare cases, hepatitis B may even be spread via saliva, especially if there’s an open wound present. By contrast, HIV is only spread through other bodily fluids.
  • It has a much higher viral load: HBV can be present in fluids at up to 100 times more concentrated levels than HIV in the same volume of fluid. In other words, compared with HIV, even the slightest exposure may result in a transmission.
  • More people have it: In 2017, 35 million people globally were living with HIV compared with 257 million people living with chronic HBV.

In the United States, the main risk factors for HIV or HBV include sex without a condom or other barrier method and injectable drug use. In areas where HBV is endemic (such as Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa), it’s most often transmitted from childbearing parent to child at birth.

About 10% of people with HIV in the United States also have HBV, in what’s called a “coinfection.” When someone already has either virus, research suggests they’re more vulnerable to contracting the other virus.

Though HIV is more likely to be fatal once contracted, HBV kills more people annually.

The mortality rate of people with HBV is estimated to be less than 1.5%. By contrast, the mortality rate of those with HIV is about 10.6% globally or about 2.9% in the United States.

That said, about 1 million people worldwide die from HBV each year compared with about 630,000 people who die of HIV-related illnesses.

Hepatitis B can live outside the body (in dried fluid on surfaces) for 7 or more days.

It lives in your body for much longer. Someone with the virus may be able to pass it to another person anywhere from 30 to 180 days.

It’s generally safe to be around someone with HBV in everyday interactions. Like HIV, HBV carries no risk of transmission from typical social situations. Hepatitis B can’t be spread from:

  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • touching
  • hugging

For that reason, it’s safe to be around someone with hepatitis B as long as you avoid:

  • sexual contact
  • any direct contact with blood (even if it’s in microscopic amounts too small to see)
  • sharing items that may carry even the tiniest amounts of blood, like:
    • toothbrushes
    • nail clippers
    • razors
    • syringes
    • glucose monitors
  • any contact with an open sore or wound of someone with an active virus

Although HBV can be potentially spread through saliva, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s not believed to be spread through kissing or sharing cutlery or food. It also can’t be spread from parent to child during nursing.

To be extra safe, it’s generally recommended to get the hepatitis B vaccine, which will protect you from the virus. If you’ve already contracted the virus, getting the vaccine can still be beneficial.

Learn more about the spread of hepatitis B

To protect yourself and others from HBV, you may want to learn about it, including:

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HBV is much more easily contracted than HIV. Hepatitis B can survive outside the body for more than a week and spread in even microscopic amounts of bodily fluid.

Though HIV is currently more likely to be fatal once contracted, HBV is more widespread, more contagious, and kills more people annually worldwide.

You can protect against both viruses by not having sex without a condom or other barrier method and not sharing needles. The hepatitis B vaccine can also help your body respond to HBV, even after HBV has been acquired. People who are vulnerable to HIV may also want to take preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP).