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Is oral sex a risk?

QUESTION:
Iím confused. Iím a bisexual male and have always used condoms for anal and vaginal sex. My worry is oral. Iíve received and performed oral sex without a condom, but after receiving information stating that oral is safe and there are no documented cases, Iíve recently been reading the opposite. All the information seems to be inconsistent. Is it or isnít it a risk?

ANSWER:
Thanks for your question below. It is perhaps best to look at risk in terms of degree of risk. For sex, the only no risk situations are (1) to abstain completely; (2) to have sex between 2 mutually faithful uninfected partners, ensuring that you both can fully trust one another; (3) to not have any exchange of body fluids, such as only engaging in mutual masturbation.

Other sexual acts are not so straight forward. Anal sex is overall most risky followed by vaginal sex. Oral sex is much less risky, but not with no risk at all. For all of these sex acts, it will depend on a number of factors, such as the viral load of the positive person. For oral sex, it depends largely on the condition of the mouth of the person performing sex. If there are cuts or lesions, it is possible that the virus can enter the system. So it is not a good idea if you have sores inside your mouth. And it is also a good idea to avoid flossing before performing oral sex since this can cause small lesions in the gums.

All of this said, we also know that saliva has been shown to possess many factors that have an anti-HIV effect. It is a combination of things. First, saliva has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal activities. In addition, HIV induces the tissues lining the mouth to secrete small peptides and proteins that are capable of killing HIV. That said, you should keep in mind that there is still some risk of oral transmission of HIV if infected semen, blood or vaginal fluids enter the mouth, particularly in the presence of minute cracks in the mouth or with unhealthy gums. The saliva will not necessarily kill the HIV in these fluids.

One other thing to keep in mind: while the risk of HIV may be low for oral sex, there are other sexually transmitted infections that are possible. Have a look at this website:
http://www.brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health _Education/sexual_health/sti/oralsex.htm


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Date Created June 06, 2006
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