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Nipple Sucking & HIV Transmission Risk

Oct 30, 1996

In several of your answers to questions you've been asked, you have mentioned that HIV is present in breast milk, a statement affirmed by other sources that I have read. This fact prompts me to ask the following questions, pertaining to sucking a woman's nipples: Does this activity pose any risk at all when sucking the nipples of a woman who is neither pregnant nor recently given birth? Is it possible that a woman might lactate even at times when she wasn't pregnant? There have been occasions on which I have sucked the nipples of a woman who was definitely not pregnant, and yet there was a taste to her nipples, despite the fact that I did not detect any fluid entering my mouth. Could this sensation of taste deriving from sucking a woman's nipples be a warning sign that one might be at risk when engaging in this practice? I am asking these questions because I want to avoid any actions which do not constitute completely safe forms of sex, and so I would appreciate your thoughts on whether sucking the nipples of a woman, other than one who is pregnant or has recently given birth, could possibly pose any risk for transmission of HIV. Thanks.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question. A woman normally produces breast milk during pregnancy, and after giving birth, and while breast feeding her baby. Other than those times, a woman does not normally produce breast milk.

If you are sucking on a woman's breast during the instances above, you would be at risk of becoming infected if you got her breast milk in your mouth. However at times when a woman doesn't normally produce breast milk, you would not be considered at risk for HIV infection.

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

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