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Sex Toy Safety

Jun 7, 2002

Dear Dr. Kull,

Last week, I had a sexual massage from a woman I had just met. This encounter consisted of mostly manual stimulation of my genitals and rectal regions. However, at one point, she suggested using a bullet vibrator for further rectal stimulation. Without thinking about safety, I agreed. Now, I'm concerned about the possibility of STD's with a sex toy that has probably been shared with others. Now we did use a condom for the vibrator, and it didn't break. But, we also used massage oil as a lubricant for a condom that she provided, most likely latex. Now, I will go get testing in 3 months for HIV. What do you think my risk is? Thanks.

Response from Mr. Kull

It is highly unlikely that you would become infected with HIV or other STD's by using a sex toy that another person has used, though it is possible depending on the circumstances. The length of time that elapses between sharing a toy will affect the risk for transmission. The shorter the time between sharing the toy with your partner, the greater the chance of transmission of STDs. The risk of transmission will also vary depending on the amount and types of fluids that are on the sex toy (blood is more infectious than vaginal fluid).

In order for HIV to be transmitted by using another person's sex toy, ALL of the following need to be true:

1) The sex toy was used by an HIV positive person

2) There were HIV infected fluids on the sex toy (semen, blood, vaginal secretions)

3) Those fluids came into contact with the uninfected person's mucous membranes (the lining of the vagina, rectum, mouth, urethra)

4) The sex toy was used by the uninfected person shortly after the infected person used it. Remember, HIV does not survive in the environment very long.

HIV is only known to be sexually transmitted during vaginal, anal and oral sex. It is not known to be transmitted by contact with inanimate objects (needles used for injecting drugs excluded).

Washing off the sex toy with soap and water or putting a latex condom on the toy before each use greatly reduces the already small chance of transmission. The fact that a condom was used would help, even though oil-based lubricant was used (water-based is recommended).


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