If you're worried about HIV infection, you may wonder whether it's safe to have oral sex. While it's not risk-free, the chances of spreading the virus that causes AIDS are very low if you take the right precautions.
The chance that you will get HIV from receiving oral sex -- that means a partner's mouth is on your genitals -- is very low compared to unprotected vaginal or anal sex. But it's not easy to know what the actual risk is. This is because most people who have oral sex also have vaginal or anal sex. It's tricky to figure out each factor on its own.
It's thought to be riskier to give oral sex, rather than receive it. This is because you may have small cuts or sores in your mouth, even if you are not aware of them. There's also risk from a partner's fluids, which may get into contact with your mouth and throat.
The chance of being infected with HIV from anilingus (oral-anal sex) is also considered to be very low. The bigger risk is that you become sick from certain other viruses or bacteria that live in your partner's anus.
How You Become Infected
There is HIV virus in body fluids like vaginal secretions and semen. If those fluids are present, they can enter the bloodstream of someone who doesn't have HIV through an opening such as a mouth sore or a genital ulcer.
Your chances are higher of getting HIV if you:
How to Protect Yourself
Since there is still a chance that you could get infected with HIV through oral sex, you should always take precautions. Here is what you can do to lower your risk:
Do not let a male partner ejaculate in your mouth. You can do this if you remove your mouth from their penis before they ejaculate, or if you use a condom.
Use a condom or dental dam. A dental dam is a thin square piece of latex or silicone that you place over the vagina or anal area during oral sex. You can also cut a latex condom lengthwise and use it the same way.
Both of these barriers also lower the risk of infection from other STDs such as gonorrhea of the throat or hepatitis. Use a new one every time you have oral sex. Check the expiration date on the package, and make sure there are no tears or defects.
Don't use oil-based products like baby oil, lotion, petroleum jelly, or cooking oil on condoms or dental dams because that can cause them to break. If you need lubrication, use a water-based or silicone-based product instead. Always use a condom or dental dam during your period since the virus can be present in menstrual blood.
Don't brush your teeth just before oral sex. If you do, your mouth or gums may bleed, which raises chances of infection.
Skip oral sex during risky times. This includes a time when you have sores around your mouth, genitals, or anus (for example, a herpes outbreak), gum damage, a throat infection, or after dental work.
If your partner is HIV-positive, the risk is also lower if they currently take medicine to treat HIV (antiretroviral therapy or ART). This suppresses the virus so it can't spread as easily. You can also take medicine that prevents HIV. Talk to your doctor about your options.