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Are there any reported cases of getting HIV from receiving oral sex?
Jul 2, 1998

Hi Rick,

I had two questions regarding transmission of HIV. I know it's unlikely to catch HIV from receiving oral sex, but I've heard that if biting/teeth were involved, there would be risk--is that the case? Have you known anyone to catch HIV from receiving oral sex?

Also, would it be possible to catch HIV from stepping in semen that was on the floor of a sauna--if you had an open(but non-bleeding) corn on your foot? I know these questions may sound silly, buit they've been causing me some concern, and I feel that If I know that HIV has not been transmitted this way, it would help alleviate my fears. Thanks for your help.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. First of all, regarding the semen on the floor, your risks are extremely remote. Realistically speaking, the chances of HIV getting into your bloodstream within minutes of leaving the other persons body under these circumstances, are extremely small. It is important to keep things in a realistic perspective, not a theoretical one. Theoretically, anything and everything is possible. But realistically, your chances of infection are very remote in a situation such as this.

In regard to reported cases of HIV transmission through receiving oral sex:

Realistically speaking, your risks of infection are extremely low. If you are receiving oral sex from someone else, you are normally only being exposed to saliva. The concentrations of the HIV virus in saliva are so low, that the chances of infection are realistically extremely small. Receiving oral sex would only pose a significant risk if there were visible blood in the persons mouth. Because people do not normally have visible blood in their mouth, the risks of infection are extremely low.

Has HIV transmission ever been reported through receiving oral sex? Recently, a case report of HIV transmission through receiving oral sex was reported in the medical literature. HIV transmission through this route of infection was so strange and unusual, that it got published. A case in this report did indeed involve a man getting bitten when he received oral sex (ouch!), and also involved the presence of blood.

Does this mean that everyone who has received oral sex should now run out and get tested? Absolutely not! Receiving oral sex is such an extremely low risk that it took many years of worldwide surveillance to find anyone becoming infected this way. Given enough time and enough opportunity, extremely rare events (like transmission through kissing and receiving oral sex) are bound to occur. With all the oral sex that occurs worldwide every day, the fact that it took so many years to find any cases worldwide, proves that this is an extremely low risk. In my answers, you will note that I talk about the risks of receiving oral sex as being "extremely small", "highly unlikely", and other similar terms. We cannot say there is zero risk when receiving oral sex since nothing in medicine (or life for that matter) is absolute or 100%. But realistically, the chances of infection by receiving oral sex are extremely small.

Unless you see visible blood in a persons mouth when they are giving you oral sex, there is no need to get tested. We generally do not recommend HIV testing for persons at low risk of infection, since it would be highly unlikely that a low risk person would be infected in the first place. If you look hard enough and long enough in the medical literature, you will find that just about anything in medicine is possible, regardless of what disease one is talking about. If, after reading this answer, you start convincing yourself that you will be one of those extremely rare individuals who will get HIV through receiving oral sex, or if you find yourself in a panic, rather than getting tested, consider talking to a counselor. If a person cannot accept the extremely low risks in life, then counseling may be in order. Rather than spending your time worrying about the rare exceptions in life, spend your time making your life healthier (both physically and emotionally).

References:

G. Bratt et. al.

International Journal of STD & AIDS 1997

Vol. 8 pages 522-525

S. Edwards, C. Carne

Sexually Transmitted Infections

1998 Vol. 74 #1 pages 6-10

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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