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HIV and saliva
Mar 1, 2000

Hi, I was reading an answer you gave to a recently posted question about oral sex. You said that HIV is present in saliva. I was under the assumption that although it is present, it is in such a small quantity that it is not considered a way to contract the virus by saliva alone. Is this true?

Response from Dr. Feinberg

It is present only in small amounts. However, if the recipient of oral sex has openings or breaks in the gums or mucous membranes that line the mouth and throat, HIV can gain access to the bloodstream. Recently (at the 7th Retrovirus Conference), a small proportion of cases in San Francisco (around 6%) were reported as likely to have been caused by oral sex alone on the basis of interviews and questionnaires about people's sexual practices. So it is not impossible, although uncommon. What this means simply is that all sexual acts should be practiced with as much care and safety as possible.

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