What are the risks associated with oral sex?

Oral sex can be broken down into two situations:

  • Oral sex being performed on you, and
  • You performing oral sex on someone else.

There are risks associated with both situations.

  • It is theoretically possible to become infected with HIV through receiving oral sex. Although saliva has not been shown to transmit HIV infection, if the person performing oral sex on you has HIV, blood from the mouth of that person can transfer the virus through the vagina, the tip of the penis (urethra), the anus, or directly into the body by a small cut or open sore near the genitals. The degree of risk is unknown but most health officials can agree that it is less than that of unprotected anal or vaginal sex.
  • There have been a number of documented cases of transmission of HIV through performing oral sex on an HIV infected partner. HIV can be found in a variety of body fluids, including blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid and vaginal secretions. Cells in the mucous membrane lining of the mouth have the ability to transport the virus to the lymphatic system of your body or to your bloodstream, largely increasing the risk of infection. The risk of performing oral sex on someone can increase if you have cuts or sores in and around your mouth or throat. Risk increases if your partner ejaculates into your mouth or if you take vaginal secretions into your mouth, or if you or your partner has a sexually transmitted disease.

The best thing to do if you choose to perform or receive oral sex is to protect yourself by using a latex condom or latex barrier such as a dental dam. A latex condom that has been cut open can be used as an effective barrier instead of a dental dam. Although not totally risk free, proper use of a latex condom can significantly reduce the transmission of HIV. If your partner is allergic to latex, try using a plastic or polyurethane condom. Plastic food wrap (not microwavable plastic wrap) when placed over the female genitals can be used as an effective barrier as well. Using one of these types of barriers can help reduce the risk of blood entering any of the aforementioned areas that are susceptible to HIV infection.