The chances of HIV being transmitted depends on the type of contact. HIV is most easily transmitted through unprotected sex.
Oral sex has been shown to be less risky than that, but it is not risk-free.
It is also possible to get other sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis, herpes and gonorrhea through oral sex.
Studies on risk of oral sex
Even though oral sex is a lower-risk activity, there are people who have reportedly become infected with HIV t\in this way.
Several studies have tried to determine the exact level of risk of oral sex, but it is difficult to get accurate information. Since oral sex is not the only sexual activity for most people, it is also difficult to single out oral sex as the definite way HIV was transmitted.
Because of that, different studies have reported different levels of risk ranging from less than 1% to about 8%.
The take home message of these studies is that oral sex carries a small, but real risk.
Tips for safer oral sex
Oral sex is more risky, if you or your partner have an un-treated STD, bad oral hygiene (bleeding gums, ulcers, gum disease), or ejaculate in the mouth. But there are things you can do to reduce the risk associated with oral sex.
• Don't do it if you or your partner has mouth
sores (such as oral herpes lesions).
• Look out for genital lesions (cuts or scrapes).
• If you find something, don't accept your partner's story that it was caused by the heat, weather, or clothes. Avoid any contact with the area until a health care worker has examined it.
• Don't floss, brush your teeth, or do anything that would create abrasions or cuts in your mouth before performing oral sex. Use mouthwash or a breath mint instead.
• Avoid swallowing semen, or vaginal fluids. If you can, purchase latex condoms for oral sex. They are usually un-lubricated and flavoured.
• Avoid oral sex during menstruation to prevent contact with blood.
• Avoid vigorous, prolonged oral sex ('deep throating').
• Avoid having many oral sex partners or doing it often. A large number of partners in a short time causes mouth or throat trauma.
Take care of you
Any type of sexual activity with an infected person carries a risk of HIV transmission. If you or your partner is HIV+, you should decide what steps to take to make all types of sex as safe as possible.
If you would like to discuss these issues, see a sex educator or health care provider at your treatment centre.