|Wow.. is this true? (TRANSMISSION VIA ORAL SEX, 2009)
Aug 3, 2009
Is this true? There have been cases where people have been infected with HIV through oral sex? That's scary...
| Response from Dr. Frascino
The information in the study you reference is now nine years old and has been widely discussed. Most researchers and HIV specialists find the 7.8% figure to be high based on other studies and our broad-based clinical experience. Subsequent studies have failed to confirm this high rate of infection due to oral sex transmission.
If you're asking if there have ever been any cases of HIV infection via oral sex, the answer would be yes. However, these cases are relatively rare. That is why I have consistently advised that oral sex carries only a low risk for HIV transmission/acquisition. I do not believe this information is at all new or scary. Review the chapter on oral sex in the archives for additional information (and reassurance). I'll reprint below some information from the archives on the risks of oral sex!
Oral sex/Magnetic Couple (TRANSMISSION VIA ORAL SEX) Jun 15, 2009
First of all, thank you very much for providing such great advice and information on this site. I am HIV-negative and have just recently started to date a guy who is HIV-positive. I am 29 years old and have only ever slept with one person, who was also negative. So as you can imagine, this has been a really emotional journey for me. I have not had sex with my current HIV positive boyfriend yet. I am waiting till I am informed on all of the risks involved, before preceding. I have been doing a ton of research online, and keep getting conflicting results. I really love him, and want to try to make this work. I also want to feel comfortable having sex with him. My question I had was regarding oral sex. How safe is oral sex without a condom and without the guy ejaculating in your mouth? I am trying to keep an open mind, but I cannot imagine not being able to have unprotected oral sex with my boyfriend. Using a condom for everything else is fine by me. Please shed some light on this situation for me. I am just trying to make good choices and have the knowledge before we start having sex. Thank you so much for your time.
Response from Dr. Frascino
The HIV risk associated with oral sex is definitely a QTND (question that never dies). What we can say is that overall risk of HIV acquisition/transmission via oral sex is very low. An insertive partner has less risk than a receptive partner. Review the information in the archives. We have entire chapters devoted to oral sex, magnetic couples, HIV-sexual transmission, etc. Also, I'll post below a summary of recent information presented at medical conferences discussing the latest information on the HIV transmission risk related to oral sex. Many magnetic couples have decided the risks associated with oral sex are acceptably low and forego using condoms. Others try to adhere to an absolutely no-avoidable-risk policy and hence cover their penis popsicles before all oral action. Ultimately only you and your partner can decide how much risk is acceptable. Some risk-adverse folks never drive above the posted speed limit even if there isn't another car in sight for miles and miles. Others never wear their seatbelt and text while speeding on the freeway during rush hour. We all make calculated decisions about acceptable risk everyday. You need to do the same thing with HIV and oral sex.
TRANSMISSION VIA ORAL SEX
The risk of HIV transmission through oral sex has been a subject of debate since the early years of the epidemic. But the issue is difficult to resolve based on epidemiological studies, since most people do not limit themselves to a single sexual practice. As described in the December 2008 issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology, researchers from Imperial College in London undertook a systematic review to assess the risk of HIV transmission via "orogenital intercourse," both fellatio (on a man) and cunnilingus (on a woman).
The authors searched the PubMed database and bibliographies of relevant articles through July 2007. Out of the 56,214 titles searched, they identified ten potentially appropriate studies. Two additional studies were identified through bibliographies, and one was found through discussions with experts. Ten studies, all from North America or Europe, provided estimates of HIV transmission probabilities per partner, incidence per partner, incidence per study participant, and incidence per sex act. Only three were conducted after the advent of HAART, which suppresses viral load and therefore reduces transmission risk. Given the small number of studies, they did not consider a meta-analysis (in which data from all studies are pooled) appropriate.
Six studies reported no instances of transmission via oral sex. The four studies that reported non-zero estimates included per-partner estimates of 20% (in a small study with only ten participants) and 1%, one per-study-participant estimate of 0.37%, and one per-act estimate of 0.04%. "There are currently insufficient data to estimate precisely the risk from orogenital intercourse exposure," the investigators concluded. "The low risk of transmission evident from identified studies means that more and larger studies would be required to provide sufficient evidence to derive more precise estimates."
In a related study reported in the January 28, 2009, issue of AIDS, Swedish researchers sought to determine whether exposure to HIV via oral sex results in HIV-neutralizing antibody activity in the saliva. Saliva samples were collected from 25 HIV negative gay/bisexual men with positive male partners and from 22 low-risk HIV negative healthy male control subjects; 21 of the 25 HIV-exposed but uninfected individuals reported unprotected receptive oral sex and three reported unprotected receptive anal intercourse.
Saliva from both exposed uninfected individuals and low-risk control subjects exhibited HIV-neutralizing activity. However, a significant difference was seen for immunoglobulin A1 (IgA1), with 13 of 25 exposed uninfected individualsbut none of the 22 presumably unexposed control subjectsexhibiting HIV neutralization. Based on these findings, the researchers concluded, "Unprotected oral sex evokes a salivary IgA1-mediated HIV-neutralizing response that persists over time during continuous exposure in uninfected male partners of infected men."
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