Back when I used to go to church camp, we school boys believed there were two types of virginities: the mouth and the penis (or vagina). A good Christian could have as much oral sex as they wanted because they could still say they were a “virgin” without feeling guilty about it. Nowadays, oral sex is as common as a handshake. How the tides have changed.
Oral sex is one of the most common of sexual behaviours. It’s fast, easy, and way more intimate than anal or vaginal sex — you’re putting your mouth all up in their junk, if that’s not intimate I don’t know what is. But the more we do it, the more we wonder: can we get HIV through oral sex?
The short answer is that it’s highly unlikely, but not impossible.
Believe it or not, HIV is not the easiest virus to get. It’s passed through blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid (or pre-cum), rectal/vaginal fluids, and breast milk. In order for it to transmit to another person it needs to be fed into their bloodstream. The main ways it does that is through mucous membranes, needles, or blood transfusions.
Mucous membranes are found inside the rectum, vagina, penis, and mouth, but they’re mostly protected through layers of tissue, that is, unless there are tears you’re unaware of, or damaged tissue in plain sight.
Always be extremely careful if you notice open sores in and around the mouth. If they're visible, you probably should skip Mr. Fellatio tonight. Tears and open sores make it easier for fluids to seep through.
Dr. Thomas Coates, a professor of medicine and director of the University of California, San Francisco, AIDS Research Institute and the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, said to Plus that HIV transmission through “fellatio without ejaculation can happen, but it is exceedingly rare.”
In fact, most researchers say that the risk of transmission is near zero.
The risk of HIV transmission rises a tiny, tiny bit if a man with HIV ejaculates inside his partner’s mouth, or when a women is receiving oral sex while she’s menstruating, but the person performing the oral sex must also have open sores or other entry point to their mucous membranes, which is again exceedingly rare.
Nonetheless there are plenty of things you can do to help lower the risk if you're still nervous. For example:
When giving oral sex, always spit or swallow ejaculate. Do not let it sit in your mouth for long periods of time, as it might make its way through open sores or damaged tissue in the mouth. Swallowing is perfectly safe, according to San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Once semen makes its way past the mouth, stomach acid and enzymes in the esophagus kill any HIV in it, so swallowing is actually one of the safest things to do after a blow job.
When receiving oral sex, it can benefit both of you not to jab with such force that it tears delicate tissue around a penis, vagina, or inside your partner’s mouth, thus creating a wider opportunity for fluids to seep through. Be sure to double check your penis (around the head especially) or vagina to be sure there aren’t any tears.
Furthermore, be aware of when you do things that create open wounds in your mouth, like brushing your teeth, flossing, eating hard foods, or opening cans or bottles with your teeth, which many people do. Allow at least an hour after any of these practices to let the wounds close themselves before you're exposed to semen or vaginal fluids.
(Oh, and on a side that has absolutely nothing to do with HIV transmission, when performing oral sex don’t forget to layer your lips with a small coat of Chapstick beforehand. Your partner will thank you for it later.)