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Can I get HIV from performing oral sex?

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Updated July 01, 2007

Question: Can I get HIV from performing oral sex?
Many sexual activities carry an HIV risk. HIV transmission can occur if precautions are not taken. In some circles, oral sex is viewed as a safe alternative to intercourse. But oral sex is not without HIV risk. So the answer to this question may surprise some people.

Answer:
While the HIV risk is much less than anal or vaginal sexual intercourse, it is possible for you to become infected with HIV while performing oral sex. There have been a few cases of HIV transmission from performing oral sex on a person infected with HIV. While no one knows exactly what the degree of risk is, evidence suggests that the risk is much less than that of unprotected anal or vaginal sex.

What are the Riskiest Behaviors?

Blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, and vaginal fluid all contain HIV. Cells in the mucous membrane lining of the mouth allow HIV into the lymph nodes or the bloodstream. The HIV risk increases if:

  • you have cuts or sores around or in your mouth or throat
  • your partner ejaculates in your mouth
  • your partner has another sexually transmitted disease (STD).

The Link Between HIV and STDs

Oral Sex With a Man - If you choose to have oral sex, and your partner is male, use a latex condom. If you or your partner is allergic to latex, plastic (polyurethane) condoms should be used. Research has shown the effectiveness of latex condoms in preventing the transmission of HIV. Condoms are not risk-free, but they greatly reduce your risk of becoming HIV-infected if your partner has the virus.

Condom Do's and Don'ts

Oral Sex With a Woman - If you choose to have oral sex, and your partner is female, use a latex barrier (such as a dental dam or a cut-open condom that makes a square) between your mouth and the vagina. Plastic food wrap also can be used as a barrier.

Make Your Own Dental Dam

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