There are so many myths surrounding HIV and AIDS; among them, the most important are all those related to its transmission. Today, it is widely known that the HIV-virus, can only be transmitted through five bodily fluids, which possess the quantity and quality to transmit the HIV. These five fluids are: semen, preseminal fluid, vaginal fluids, blood and breast milk. This means, that only these five bodily fluids can transmit the virus, the rest don’t have the quantity or quality necessary to transmit the virus to another person. Once this fact is clarified, we can dispel wrong pieces of information about the transmission of HIV. In fact, knowing this, we can realize that, despite everything, HIV is a virus difficult to transmit, unlike others.
Among the routes of transmission, the one with the highest prevalence is the sexual route; either through anal sex, or vaginal. It is well known that both anal and vaginal are at high risk of transmission. However, there are people who think that the HIV is only transmitted through this previous sexual practices, leaving aside the oral sex. It is true that the transmission of HIV through oral sex is very low or almost zero; however, it does not mean that it cannot be transmitted through oral sex.
The person who perform oral sex have the highest risk. Specifically when a man with HIV ejaculates into the mouth of another person. That’s why it is important to maintain good oral hygiene. It will make a great difference to reduce the chances of acquiring the virus. However, there are also many factors that may increase the risk when performing oral sex. These may be:
- Ulcers in the mouth of the person that receives the semen.
- Bleeding gums.
- Genital sores.
- The presence of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) on both persons.
Oral sex include giving or receiving oral stimulation to the penis, which is known as fellatio; to the vagina, known as cunnilingus; or to the anus, known as anilingus or rimming. Any of these sexual practices can transmit HIV.
Receiving oral sex, giving or receiving cunnilingus or anilingus carries little or no risk at all. The highest risk is for those who practice oral sex to a man with HIV, and he ejaculates into the mouth.
Let’s see it in this way: a person with HIV has the virus in his blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid or vaginal fluids. This means that if the person who practices oral sex has any ulcer in the mouth, or some other factor that put them at risk, and the man with HIV ejaculates into the mouth, the risk of HIV transmission increases. In another case, if the person who performs oral sexual has HIV, the blood from his mouth can enter the body of the person receiving oral sex through the lining of the urethra (the opening at the tip of the penis), the vagina, cervix or anus; or through cuts and sores.
Apart from being at risk of acquiring HIV through oral sex, there are also other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can be transmitted more easily. These can be:
- Oral and genital herpes
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Intestinal parasites such as amebiasis
- Hepatitis A or B
To avoid the risk of HIV transmission you can avoid performing oral sex to an unknown person, don’t let your partner ejaculate into your mouth or use a barrier method such as condoms, sheets of latex between your mouth and your partner’s genitals.
Similarly, it is important to know that the risk of contracting HIV by performing oral sex is less if you use pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) on a daily basis, or if your partner has HIV and s/he is receiving proper antiretroviral therapy.
PrEP is a drug called Truvada, which can be prescribed to people with a high risk of acquiring HIV in order to prevent the infection. The antiretroviral therapy is a combination of medications for the treatment of HIV in people who already have the virus.
Finally, it must be kept in mind that barrier methods are the only form of protection against many STIs including gonorrhea. While the possibility of acquiring or transmitting HIV through oral sex is low, there is a greater possibility of contracting hepatitis A and B, parasites and other bacteria.