Oral sex is now widely practiced, in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. For many years, it was regarded as an almost ‘unmentionable’ activity. But these days, research suggests that most sexually active people go in for it sometimes. However, a lot of people do – quite understandably – worry about whether oral love play could give them any infection – particularly HIV
In 2010, serious worries began to emerge about whether oral sex can give people human papilloma virus (HPV) in the throat area and whether this could lead to cancer. Also, in 2011 experts pointed out that there appears to be some significant risk of acquiring chlamydia and gonorrhoea through oral sexual activity. In this article, we look at the various risks.
What is oral sex?
First, let’s just clarify what we mean by ‘oral sex’. There are several main types.
- Cunnilingus (sometimes referred to as ‘cunnilinctus’) is oral stimulation of a woman’s vagina and/or vulva – and especially her clitoris – by her partner’s lips and tongue.
- Fellatio is stimulation of a man’s penis by his partners mouth – usually by licking or sucking. It is often wrongly referred to as ‘a blow job’ in fact, it is highly dangerous to ‘blow’ during this manoeuvre (or during cunnilingus).
- Oro-anal sex – often referred to as ‘rimming’ – is stimulation of the partner’s anus with tongue or lips. Clinical experience suggests that it is relatively uncommon in heterosexuals. As the anus isn’t a very clean area of the body, there is no doubt that rimming will lead to some transfer of germs to the mouth.
HIV infection risk
HIV can be transmitted by oral sex, though this does not occur frequently. fellatio and cunnilingus have been known to pass it on. Both ‘receiving’ and ‘giving’ fellatio have been incriminated in passing HIV on and oral sex is certainly much safer HIV-wise than rectal or anal sex. oral sex is probably safer than vaginal intercourse although ulcers in the mouth could increase the risk of contracting HIV. oral sex is definitely more risky than non-penetrative sex (eg mutual masturbation, kissing, etc). during fellatio, if the man avoids ejaculation, it probably reduces the risk somewhat. in the case of cunnilingus, there may be an increased risk of transmission if the woman is menstruating.using condoms or ‘dental dams’ during oral sex could reduce the chance of infection, but not eliminate it and there’s no evidence that mouthwashes could reduce the risk of infection.
You can see from the above that there is always some risk of transmission of HIV during oral sex, whatever precautions you take. However, you cannot get infected if your partner does not have the virus.