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Can HIV Transmit Through Oral Sex?

Oral sex, also known as oral intercourse is a common form of sexual activity, which involves using the mouth, lips or tongue to stimulate your partner's genitals or anus. Both heterosexual and homosexual couples can perform oral sex on their partner [1].

Nearly 14 per cent to 50 per cent of adolescents have had more oral sex than sexual intercourse and few adolescents who engage in oral sex use protection [1]. So, the question lies can HIV transmit through oral sex? Let's find out here.

Types Of Oral Sex [1]

There are various types of oral sex, which are:

Cunnilingus (oral vaginal contact): When a woman's vagina or vulva, especially the clitoris is orally stimulated by her partner's lips and tongue.

Fellatio (oral penile contact): The oral stimulation of a man's penis by his partner's mouth.

Analingus (oral anal contact): The oral stimulation of the partner's anus with tongue or lips.

Oral sex is natural and both partners can enjoy it if they have consented to it. But, having unprotected oral sex has its risks.

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The Risks Of Oral Sex

Many experts say oral sex is not safe because it carries a significant risk of contracting or passing on sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is because oral sex involves licking or sucking your partner's genitals or anus, which makes you more likely to come in contact with genital fluids or faeces.

According to a study published in the Journal of Global Infectious Diseases, oral sex increases the risk of several STIs such as syphilis, gonorrhoea, herpes, Chlamydia, HPV and HIV [2], [3], [4].

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What Is HIV?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the body's immune system, which lowers the body's ability to fight off infections and diseases. The virus is easily transmitted through contact with blood, semen, pre-ejaculatory fluid, breast milk, vaginal fluid and rectal fluid [5].


Oral Sex And HIV Risk

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the chances of an HIV-negative person getting HIV through oral sex from an HIV-positive partner is very low. However, the exact risk factor of getting HIV is hard to detect because most people who have oral sex also get involved in anal or vaginal sex.

The type of oral sex that may increase HIV risk is fellatio (oral penile contact), but still, the risk is very low. However, several factors may increase the risk of HIV transmission through oral sex which includes open sores in the mouth, vagina or on the penis, oral contact with menstrual blood, bleeding gums and having other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) [6].

Oral sex with ejaculation was considered riskier than oral sex without ejaculation. And receptive anal sex was considered riskier than insertive anal sex as compared to oral sex [1].

There is very little evidence to show that HIV can be transmitted through oral sex. More extensive studies are required to provide sufficient evidence of HIV transmission through oral sex [7].

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How To Reduce HIV Risk

Couples can lower their risk of HIV transmission from oral sex by not allowing your male partners to ejaculate in your mouth, which can be done by removing the mouth from the penis before ejaculation or by using a condom.

Using condoms or dental dam during oral sex is recommended to decrease the risk of HIV. In addition, if the HIV-negative partner is taking medicines such as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP to prevent HIV or the HIV-positive partner is taking medicines such as antiretroviral therapy (ART) to treat HIV, the risk of HIV transmission is much lower [6].


To Conclude...

Although the risk of HIV transmission through oral sex is low, it is advisable to use protection while performing oral sex. Also, oral sex carries a lower risk of HIV transmission as compared to anal or vaginal sex.

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Story first published: Saturday, May 9, 2020, 12:50 [IST]