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There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding HIV and therefore a lot of confusion about how transmission happens. This might have you wondering: Can you get HIV from oral sex?
Can You Get HIV From Oral Sex?
To start, it is important to educate yourself and learn how to better protect yourself, but also remove the social stigma for those living with HIV. With the right protection and a better understanding of the infection, you can live a safer and happier sex life.
How is HIV Transmitted?
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it is important to first understand how HIV is transmitted in order to get a grasp on the potential risk factors. The HIV virus is found primarily in some bodily, fluids such as semen or blood. It it important to mention though that HIV cannot be tranmited from things like mucus or saliva.
In the case of blood or semen, transmission happens when these fluids carrying the virus enter from the infected individual into the bloodstream of another. The virus can enter through cuts, sores, or other breaks in the skin.
This means that sexual activities like anal are the riskiest, whereas vaginal sex which is less susceptible to cuts and tears still carries a high-risk factor, but has a lower chance of transmission.
Infection is a Tricky Process
Even with these conditions, infection is tricky because the virus needs very ideal conditions to move from one person to another. Something that is largely overlooked is the fact that HIV dies relatively quickly when exposed to open air, making sex and needles the two two main means of transmission.
Additionally, the virus cannot pass through unbroken tissue. This means that even if someone has unprotected sex with someone who is HIV positive, they are not guaranteed to become infected themselves [Brown University].
What the Research Says
In the study “Oral transmission of HIV, reality or ﬁction? An update”, the University of Madrid looked at couples whose only risk to expose was oral-genital contact without the use of a condom, with condoms being used only in other sexual practices found that in 10,295 active contacts, no cases of HIV transmission were found.
This is just one of many other studies which point to no risk, or an inconclusive risk results [Blackwell]. Even if you were to perform unprotected oral sex with someone who were HIV+ the conditions would have to be perfect, with major cuts in your mouth and little to no saliva which if were the case, would not be a condition you would want to be in to have sex in the first place.
Regardless, it is still good practice to keep good oral hygiene to reduce risk from other STD’s which can be easily transmitted orally.
So can you get HIV from Oral Sex?
To answer this question in short, the risk of transmission through oral sex is very, very low, so much so that only a handful of cases, about 6 in total, have ever been reported. Additionally, the reliability of these cases are disputed due to factors like self-reporting and it is unclear of whether other forms of sex such as vaginal or anal contributed to these cases.
Although there is a theoretical risk of infection, if someone were to have open cuts, sores or bleeding gums, the presence of air and saliva make the mouth a very hostile environment for HIV to live. Therefore, even if your partner is HIV positive, the risk of infection is nearly non-existent.
Steps to Protect Yourself
When brishing your teeth it is best procatice to wait about an hour after before engading in oral sex. This is to let small cuts heal (the mouth repairs itself very quickly) and avoid the condidiotns we talked about earlier.
Additionally, it is smart not to give oral if you have open sores or bleeding gums as this provides a pretty clean path for STDs to go back and forth.
Don’t Swallow. Yes, swallowing probably won’t give you HIV, but it can increase your risk of contracting other STDs. Not to mention, if you don’t know your partner’s STD status, its not a good practice.
If however you practice good oral health and keep these tips in mind you should be perfectly safe from an HIV infection.
If however you are still worried, then you can always use a condom. This is about as safe as you can get, and though your nerves may still get the best of you, it is important to remember that if you do the above, then you should be just fine.
Be Smart and Be Safe
It is easy to get caught up in fear of HIV, but you should always remember that there are thousands of couples living together with only one HIV+ partner.
These couples are able to keep each other healthy and safe by following these rules, and if you practice oral sex exclusivity then you too can be safe from HIV.
Having oral sex with someone who is HIV+ will not get give you HIV if you educate yourself and use your head. So be smart and stop worrying so much.