The chances of someone getting HIV will depend on the type of contact that they have. The most common way to spread HIV is through unprotected sex, whether it is Anal, Vaginal, or sharing drug equipment and needles. Unprotected sex is when a person has sex without using a condom or there are not any other barriers used. Recently, research has shown that people who have HIV, going through treatment and have low viral loads, are not able to pass HIV on to their partners, even if the sex is unprotected. Even after saying that, unprotected sex can put you at risk for a sexually transmitted infection.
Oral sex is when a person has contact with the genitals using their mouth. This does include receiving or giving sucking, licking, biting on the vagina, as well as oral contact with the anus, penis or vagina. Under normal circumstances, oral sex has very little risk to spreading HIV. Oral sex is not always risk free, but it has been shown to be less risky than other activities.
HIV can be present within the sexual fluid of females, semen or ejaculate from the male, and blood. HIV is unable to be spread through spit. One of the other types of fluid will need to be present and there will need to be a way for fluid to enter into the bloodstream of the other person like a genital ulcer or mouth sores for HIV to spread.
It is very possible for a person to get a STI or STD like HPV, gonorrhea, herpes, or syphilis during unprotected oral sex. HIV treatment as being a prevent will not stop other STIs besides HIV.
Studies on Oral Sex Risks
Oral sex is seen to be a low risk activity. The risk of spreading HIV through oral sex is going to be higher if the partner has bleeding gums, genital sores, gum diseases, mouth ulcers or other STIs. There are some studies that have shown that in rare instances people have gotten HIV through oral sex. However, there are a lot of studies that have tried to learn what risk level oral sex has, but it could be much harder to get that information. Whenever HIV is spread, it will be hard to find out if it was oral, or other risky sexual activity.
The main message is that oral sex can be risky, but the risk is only small, but it is real.
Safer Oral Sex Tips
Oral sex will only be risky if you or your partner:
- Have genital sores
- Has gum disease, mouth ulcers, or bleeding gums
- Puts their mouth on the genitals of a woman who is on their period
- Has an untreated STI
- Takes semen or cum into their mouth
There are some things that you can do in order to lower your risk during oral sex:
- Don’t give a man oral sex if his penis is bruising your tonsils or throat from deep throating, of if you get injuries around your mouth.
- Use alternatives:
- Try a vibrator (use a condom on the vibrator)
- Try mutual masturbation or massage
- Take care of your mouth. You can increase your risk of getting HIV through oral sex if you have infections, sores, cuts, ulcers, or bleeding gums in your mouth.
- Avoid oral sex when a woman is on her period to prevent blood contact.
- Use a dental dam or condom for oral sex on a woman/man
- A dental dam is a square made from latex. Some use water-based lubrication on one side to provide protection against HIV being spread. The dam or condom should be stretched over the anus or vagina with the lube side down. This provides a bit of a barrier. Plastic wrap has been seen to be effective from getting herpes, but there isn’t any research that shows it prevent HIV.
- Use polyisoprene or latex condoms for oral sex on a man.
- You can try flavored versions that don’t contain lubricants.
- If you don’t use a condom for oral sex, finish using your hand or spit the semen out instead of swallowing.
- Avoid swallowing period blood, semen, pre-cum or vaginal fluids.
- Don’t brush your teeth, floss or anything that can cut or cause bleeding in the mouth before oral sex is performed. You can use a breath mint instead.
- Don’t have oral sex if you or your partner have mouth sores.
- Check out your partner’s genitals to look for sores, scrapes or cuts.
- If you happen to find something, then avoid contact with that area until your partner is checked out by a health care professional. Very rarely will genital cuts be caused by clothes, heat or the weather.
Caring for Yourself
While there is a small risk of getting HIV through oral sex, it is not risk free. If you are or your partner have HIV, it is very important to decide what you should when it comes to making sex safer. It is also important to keep in mind that if you have period blood, or cum in your mouth as well as gum disease, mouth ulcers, or bleeding gums, then it can make oral sex much riskier. If you want to talk about this more, see a sex educator or your health care provider.