HIV does not reproduce outside a human host and cannot be transmitted through saliva, tears, or sweat. It is a common misconception that sharing dishes, shaking hands, or hugging can transmit HIV, says Anne M. Neilan, MD, MPH, Infectious Disease Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Generally, it’s unlikely that you will contract HIV from oral sex. However, there are some circumstances in which this could happen, though uncommon. This article will discuss the likelihood of getting HIV through oral sex and how to avoid contracting or transmitting it.
“The likelihood of acquiring HIV from oral sex is far lower than vaginal or anal sex,” says Neilan. The risk is so low that scientists have not established a conclusive statistic, but a 1999 study estimates a 0.04% risk among male sexual partners.
Saliva contains secretory leukocyte protease inhibitors that inactivate the virus. Because of this HIV inhibitor, the virus reproduces less than it would in the blood cells.
Although the risk is low, unprotected oral sex still carries the risk of transmitting HIV, as well as sexually transmitted infections (STI). “Protection against HIV does not mean protection against all sexually transmitted infections,” says Neilan.
A person without HIV may contract the virus by giving or receiving any type of oral sex to or from a partner with HIV. Some risk factors increase the likelihood of contracting HIV through oral sex, which include:
- Sores in the mouth, vagina, or penis
- Tooth decay or gum disease
- Recent dental work
- STIs, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia
- Oral contact with menstrual blood
The risk of HIV from oral sex may be minimal, but it’s still important to know how to avoid contracting and transmitting the virus.
Using dental dams, male and female condoms during oral sex reduces the likelihood of contracting HIV, but you must use them correctly, says Neilan. Refraining from oral sex when risk factors are present, and avoiding seminal or vaginal fluids in the mouth also lessen the risk, but does not completely eliminate it.
STIs like gonorrhea or syphilis can cause sores on the mucous membrane, increasing the chances of getting or transmitting HIV, so get tested regularly and seek treatment if needed.