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STD's and oral sex

Oct 14, 1997

Can you contract an STD during oral sex.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. This is actually a complicated question, since we are talking about a group of diseases, rather than just one disease. The risk also depends upon whether one is giving or receiving oral sex.

In regards to receiving oral sex, this is very low risk for HIV and most other STD's. The primary STD risk here is for Herpes infection. If a person giving you oral sex has an oral Herpes lesion on their lip (also known as a "cold sore"), they can transmit the Herpes virus to your penis/vagina. Herpes can be transmitted by direct oral-genital contact with the Herpes lesion. More information about Herpes transmission can be found in the posting, "How is herpes transmitted exactly...fluid mucosal contact?" Other than this, the risks are actually quite small for STD's when receiving oral sex.

Giving oral sex is another matter. Giving oral sex poses a significant risk for several STD's.

1) There is a risk for HIV infection. See the posting, "Can you get HIV through oral sex?" for an explanation of the risks here.

2) The Hepatitis B virus is transmitted the same way as HIV, only it is much more infectious than HIV. The information that applies for HIV transmission, also applies for Hepatitis B transmission. However, the risks for Hepatitis B are even greater than the risks for HIV.

3) There is also a risk for Gonorrhea when giving oral sex. If you give someone oral sex, and they have Gonorrhea, you could get infected with Gonorrhea in the throat. Gonorrhea can cause a discharge that can be very infectious if it gets into the throat (or penis/rectum/vagina) of another person. This is much more likely to occur when giving a man oral sex, although giving a woman oral sex can also pose a risk for Gonorrhea (although to a lesser extent).

4) Herpes can also be transmitted this way. If a person has a Herpes lesion on their penis/vagina, and you give them oral sex, you can get oral Herpes this way (also known as a "cold sore").

There are other STD's that can be transmitted by giving oral sex, such as syphilis and HTLV-I infection. But transmission for these diseases through oral sex does not occur as often as the STD's discussed above.

In summary, receiving oral sex poses a very low risk for most STD's. But giving oral sex can put a person at risk for a number of STD infections.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail me at "" or call me at 1-800-842-AIDS (Nationwide). I'm glad to help!

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