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Oral sex and HIV

a woman's and man's mouths

Oral sex is when a man has his penis stimulated by another person’s mouth, lips or tongue (often to the point where he ejaculates) or when a woman has her vagina, vulva or clitoris stimulated in the same way.

Oral sex is very low risk for HIV transmission, but sometimes the virus is passed on this way.

There are no exact figures on how risky it is but HIV doesn’t find it easy to enter the bloodstream through the relatively tough lining of the mouth or throat.

Unprotected anal and vaginal sex lead to far more HIV infections than are caused by oral sex.


Receiving oral sex from someone with HIV

There have been no reliable reports of someone getting HIV by having oral sex performed on them.

This would really only be possible if someone with HIV was giving them oral sex when their mouth was bleeding.


Performing oral sex on a man with HIV

There is a very small risk if an HIV negative person performs oral sex on a man with HIV.

This risk increases if his infected pre-cum or semen gets into the other person’s mouth.

Avoid holding semen in the mouth - whether you spit it out or swallow, the important thing is to have it in your mouth for as short a time as possible.


Performing oral sex on a woman with HIV

This carries a very small risk, which can be cut by holding a latex barrier over her vagina (either a dental dam, or - much cheaper - a condom cut into a square).

Oral sex during her period carries a greater risk.


Levels of HIV ('viral load')

The low risk from oral sex increases if a person with HIV has a high viral load (ie, a lot of HIV in their body fluids) when someone performs oral sex on them.

This risk is also higher with any cuts, sores or inflammation on the man's penis or a woman’s genital area.

If the person is on HIV treatment and tests show the level of HIV in their blood has been ‘undetectable’ for at least six months, then it is extremely unlikely they will pass on HIV during any kind of sex.


Oral sex advice for people who don’t have HIV

The risk from oral sex increases if you have:

  • a throat infection (including an STI in the throat)
  • damage to the lining of the mouth or throat
  • had recent dental work or your gums bleed a lot.

Avoid performing oral sex while you have any of the above.

Don’t floss or brush teeth before oral sex (use gum or rub tooth paste on your teeth). Regular check-ups for STIs will pick up infections in your throat.

A condom removes the small risk from oral sex with a man; flavoured ones taste better.

By cutting down on oral sex partners, you make the very small HIV risk even lower.


More information and support:


Unprotected sex and HIV ››

 

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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 30/6/2014 by C. Berry

Date due for the next review: 30/6/2017

Content Author: R. Scholey

Current Owner: Alison Macbeth

More information:

Transmission from mouth to genitals, NAM

Factors influencing risk, NAM

How could HIV infect the mouth and throat?, NAM

Oral sex, NAM

EAGA/BHIVA Extremely low risk with undetectable viral load 

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