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oral sex
Apr 20, 1999

I have recently seen on the evening news about 10 days ago and also online that they have found saliva in the mouth to explode the virsu making it safe to have oral sex without fear of infection. Can you elaborate if you are aware or informed of this announcement and its validity. It is very confusing and upsetting. Thks Mack

Response from Dr. Reznik

Dear Mack:

Saliva does have properties that inhibit HIV through different mechanisms, but I cannot agree with the statement that his makes it safe to have oral sex without the possibility of infection. The National Institutes of Health, specifically the NIDCR (National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research) has recently awarded grants to study the possibilities of oral transmission of HIV. To date, I believe there are 23 documented cases of oral transmission of HIV (this information can be accessed in the Oral Manifestation Section of the HIVdent Internet Project). The report that you are referring to is included here:

"Dr. Samuel Baron and colleagues at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston determined that saliva appears to kill HIV-infected mononuclear leukocytes through hypotonic disruption. The researchers, who report their findings in the Feb. 8 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that 90 percent or more of the mononuclear leukocytes were rapidly disrupted by saliva. Saliva is devoid of many salts that are normally found in body fluids, making it hypotonic, which results in the inactivation of HIV-infected white blood cells. The scientists are investigating the use of bile salts for the use in a microbicide against HIV." ReutersHealth Information Service 02/19/99

As you are aware, casual contact with saliva does not constitute a risk for transmission of HIV. This is partly due to saliva's ability to bind with or inhibit HIV. If a large amount of HIV were to be introduced into the oral cavity, it is possible that the defensive mechanisms of saliva would be overcome; this is especially true if there are breaks within the oral tissues.

I hope this answer clears up a thing or two!


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