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really needs to be read by many
Mar 14, 2004

I know the debate about the risks in giving head is one which has still not been settled. But please listen to my story.

I had one guy who I used to sneak off with all the time and have little trysts with. I was on the "down low" and he was a sexually active gay man, pretty much "out" from what I could tell. Anyway, as he was the teacher and I was the student, I gladly gave him head any chance I got. I gave the type of devouring blow jobs that involved my primal need to have him inside of me. But I never let him enter my anus (condom or not - never). And even when giving him head, I always resisted the urge to swallow his semen (although I made it clear that when he was ready to ejaculate, that I wanted all of it to happen in my mouth). So I was a non-anal sex having spitter who thought that I was at a negligible risk for HIV infection. I knew herpes was a possibility, but for these experiences, I was willing to risk catching herpes - but not HIV!

Moving along, there was one night in particular when we were 69ing fiercely, and I was "deepthroating" him. When he came, it flooded the back of my throat, covering my tonsils, my uvula, and all the tissue in the back of the throat. This scared me a little, because I could not effectively cough up the semen without feeling I was risking irritating the tissues and further facilitating infection (if he had anything - which by the way, I had no clue about, other than that he always said he was "clean"). I didn't want to swallow, because even though I know stomach acids kill HIV, I had a bad feeling about letting someone's fluids enter into my digestive system.

So I just waited. I sort of let it sit there, covering the back of my throat... and I tried to squeeze as much of it to the front as possible. Then I gargled with warm water and spit out further.

Two weeks later, I noticed a very odd shedding of 5 lbs on the scale, plus my appearance was suddenly thinner for no apparent reason. I had already pretty much forgotten about the incident, so that when I remembered it as being my last possible exposure, it didn't create some sort of anxiety that would produce phantom symptoms. I went for 24 hour HIV (EIA) test and it came back negative. I felt great relief. However, that very night, my tonsils and neck glands all swelled up, and the inside of my mouth became discolored - dark red and then pale and white in odd areas. I felt as though I was on drugs, something was making my blood rush and my heart beat at an alarming rate. That night, when I tried to sleep, I was cold and clammy, yet my neck was burning hot from the glands swelling.

The next day I returned to the same clinic and paid for an HIV DNA/PCR test. This one came back high level positive. I had an HIV viral load!

My entire life changed at that moment. I mean, I have had my lows and my VERY lows since then, but I am getting along a little better now. No need for treatment yet, because the acute infection went away and now I'm pretty much asymptomatic with a low viral load and high cd4s (now with a positive EIA test repeatedly confirmed by western blot).

But I must say that I felt extremely betrayed by the AIDS education I had received, leading me to believe that oral sex posed a close to negligible risk.

When I researched the data on oral sex, I found that eating pussy, having one's pussy eaten, and having one's dick sucked were all very low risk activities - never definitively documented as resulting in transmission of HIV. But what WAS well documented was sucking dick causing infection in the "sucker". And I certainly feel like the "sucker" in more ways than one, now.

I think that when people ask experts like yourself about the risk of blow jobs, to respond with "oral sex is considered a low risk" that is to blanket it under a very general category that includes some REALLY low risks, bringing down the entire curve. This is very misleading.

I also really resent the attitudes I receive from so many doctors and so many HIV experts who doubt that this was the way in which I was infected. It really offends me, and makes me wonder how many others have been infected this way, and were just assumed to have gotten it through anal sex, since that has been popularized as the only real HIV threat.

I think we need to step back and look at the big picture. Semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk, and blood are indeed the bodily fluids that transmit HIV, but from everything I'm reading about the epidemiology of this virus (at least in this country) it seems that extra extra special caution needs to be used for bottoms - those who enjoy recieving semen, whether it be in their mouth or their anus, or their vagina.

By the way, the study that documents receptive blow job transmission is called the options project and it was done in San Francisco.

This study, plus other perspectives, and a compelling story similar to my own, can be seen on thebody.com (here) in Mark Schoofs' "The Great Fellatio Debate" article.

I hope enough people read this to make a difference so that my tragedy was not all for nothing, and I really hope we begin to open our eyes to the fact that not everyone will always exemplify statistics and data that merely speak of a "vast majority" and basically disregard the unlucky minority who do not fit into these "easy-bake categories".

Anyone who is sexually active should also be an HIV expert on their own. I sure wish I had been BEFORE this happened to me.

Thank you if you decide to post this.

Response from Dr. Wohl

Thanks for your email. I am sure it will be helpful to many. DW



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