Oral Sex and HIV Risk
December 20, 2013
Risk of HIV
Even though oral sex carries a lower risk of HIV transmission than other sexual activities, the risk is not zero. It's hard to measure the exact risk because most people who practice oral sex also practice other forms of sex during the same encounter. When transmission occurs, it may be the result of oral sex or other, riskier sexual activities, such as anal or vaginal sex.
If the person receiving oral sex has HIV, their blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, or vaginal fluid may contain the virus. If the person performing oral sex has HIV, blood from their mouth may enter the body of the person receiving oral sex through the lining of the urethra (the opening at the tip of the penis), vagina, cervix, or anus, or through cuts and sores.
Several factors may increase the risk of HIV transmission through oral sex, including oral ulcers, bleeding gums, genital sores, and the presence of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Risk of Other Infections
In addition to HIV, other organisms can be transmitted through oral sex with an infected partner, leading to herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, genital warts (human papillomavirus, or HPV), intestinal parasites (amebiasis), or hepatitis A or B infection.
Reducing the Risk
Barrier methods can help lower the risk of getting HIV and other STIs from oral sex. A latex or plastic condom may be used on the penis, and a cut-open condom or a dental dam can be used between the mouth and the vagina or anus.
For information on reducing the risk of HIV infection from anal or vaginal sex, see "How Can I Prevent Getting HIV From Anal or Vaginal Sex?" and other Prevention Q&As.
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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