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.
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.
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 having 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.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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