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Oral Sex: What's the Real Risk for HIV?

June 2013

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Tips for Safer Oral Sex

Oral sex is more risky if you or your partner has an untreated STD or bad oral hygiene (bleeding gums, ulcers, gum disease), or take ejaculate (cum) in the mouth. There are things you can do to reduce the risk associated with oral sex:

  • Do not have oral sex if you or your partner has mouth sores (such as oral herpes lesions)
  • Look at your partner's genitals for lesions (cuts, scrapes, or sores)

    • If you find something, avoid contact with the area until a health care provider examines it. Very rarely are genital lesions the result of the heat, the weather, or someone's clothes.
  • Do not floss, brush your teeth, or do anything that would create cuts or cause bleeding in your mouth before performing oral sex. Use mouthwash or a breath mint instead.
  • Avoid swallowing pre-cum, semen, or vaginal fluids
  • Use latex condoms for oral sex on a man (try the flavored ones that come without lube on them)

    • If you perform oral sex without a condom, finish up with your hand, or spit semen out and rinse with a mouthwash rather than swallowing it
  • Use a dental dam or cut-open condom for oral sex on a woman or for rimming (licking the anus)

    • Dental dams are squares made from latex. Put some water-based lube on one side of the dental dam or a condom that has been cut open. Then stretch the dam or condom over the vagina or anus with the lubed side facing down. This gives you a thin barrier between your mouth and the vagina or anus. (Some people use plastic food wrap as a barrier. While plastic wrap has been shown to prevent the transmission of herpes infections, there has been no research on its effectiveness in preventing HIV transmission.)
  • Avoid vaginal oral sex when a woman is menstruating (having her period or cycle) to prevent contact with blood
  • Take care of your mouth. The chances of getting HIV from oral sex increase if you have bleeding gums, ulcers, cuts, sores, or infections in the mouth.
  • Use alternatives.

    • Try massage or mutual masturbation
    • Try a vibrator (use a condom when sharing)
  • Avoid giving a man oral sex if his penis is bruising your throat or tonsils (sometimes caused by "deep-throating"), or if you experience injuries around your mouth


Taking Care of Yourself

While the risk of becoming infected through unprotected oral sex is lower than that of unprotected anal or vaginal sex, it is not risk-free. If you or your partner is living with HIV (HIV+), you should decide what steps to take to make all types of sex safer (see our safer sex info sheet). Remember that bad oral hygiene and taking cum or menstrual blood in your mouth can make oral sex more risky. If you would like to discuss these issues, see a sex educator or health care provider at your local AIDS service organization or treatment center.

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This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with TheBody.com to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from TheBody.com or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.
 
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