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oral sex
Dec 26, 2001

Can a man get HIV by performing oral sex on a woman who is infected?

Response from Mr. Kull

It is possible to get infected with HIV when performing oral sex on a woman, but based on our understanding of HIV transmission at this point in the epidemic, the odds seem very low. There are only a few cases documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of HIV transmission occurring to a person performing oral sex on a woman. There is more evidence that people are infected with HIV when performing oral sex on a man, but the risk of transmission in that case is also quite low. Here's why:

The risk of HIV transmission through oral sex is low when compared to unprotected vaginal and anal sex. The reasons for this, in part, have to do with the different biological components in each behavior: simply put, HIV seems to have a more difficult time causing infection when introduced to the mucous membranes of the mouth (saliva may provide additional protection and the cells in the mouth may not be as prone to infection). Secondly, the concentrations of HIV in vaginal secretions seem much lower than the concentrations of HIV in cervical secretions and menstrual blood. When performing oral sex on a female, the mouth is more likely to come into contact with vaginal secretions. Some sources suggest that vaginal fluids dilute the more infectious fluid, decreasing the chances of transmission to someone's mouth.

It is important that you do not perform unprotected oral sex on a woman when she is menstruating (blood has a much higher concentration of HIV), and if you are experiencing any problems with your oral health (sores, abrasions, inflammation). If you would like to decrease the risk of transmission even further, you can use a latex barrier--like a dental dam or a condom cut into a square--between your partner's vagina and your mouth.

For more about transmission through oral sex, see the CDC's fact sheet on oral transmission (http://www.thebody.com/cdc/oralsex.html).

RMK



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