21 Dec STD Risk and Oral Sex
STD Risk and Oral Sex
- Many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can be spread through oral sex.
- Using a condom, dental dam or other barrier method each and every time you have oral sex can reduce the risk of giving or getting an STD.
- Although oral sex may carry a lower risk for spreading HIV than other forms of sex, repeated unprotected exposures may increase risk of transmission.
What is Oral Sex?
Oral sex involves using the mouth, lips, or tongue to stimulate the penis (fellatio), vagina (cunnilingus), or anus (anilingus) of a sex partner. The penis and testicles and the vagina and area around the vagina are also called the genitals or genital area.
How Common is Oral Sex?
Oral sex is commonly practiced by sexually active adults. Oral sex can happen between heterosexual (straight) and same-sex (gay or lesbian) couples. More than 85% of sexually active adults aged 18-44 years reported having had oral sex at least once with a partner of the opposite sex. A separate survey conducted during 2007-2010 found that 33% of teenage girls and boys aged 15-17 years reported having had oral sex with a partner of the opposite sex.
Can STDs Be Spread During Oral Sex?
Many STDs, as well as other infections, can be spread through oral sex. Anyone exposed to an infected partner can get an STD in the mouth, throat, genitals, or rectum. The risk of getting an STD from oral sex, or spreading an STD to others through oral sex, depends on a number of things, including
- The particular STD.
- The sex acts practiced.
- How common the STD is in the population to which the sex partners belong.
- The number of specific sex acts performed.
- It may be possible to get some STDs in the mouth or throat from giving oral sex to a partner with a genital or anal/rectal infection, particularly from giving oral sex to a partner with an infected penis.
- It also may be possible to get certain STDs on the penis (and possibly the vagina, anus or rectum) from getting oral sex from a partner with a mouth or throat infection.
- It’s possible to have an STD in more than one area at the same time, for example in the throat and the genitals.
- Several STDs that may be transmitted by oral sex can then spread throughout the body of an infected person.
- STDs can be spread to a sex partner even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms. If you are infected with an STD, you might not know it because many STDs may have no symptoms.
Is Oral Sex Safer than Vaginal or Anal Sex?
- Many STDs can be spread through oral sex. However, it is difficult to compare the exact risks of getting specific STDs from specific types of sexual activity. This is partly because most people who have oral sex also have vaginal or anal sex. Also, few studies have looked at the risks of getting STDs other than HIV from giving oral sex on the vagina or anus, compared to giving oral sex on the penis.
- Studies have shown that the risk of getting HIV from having oral sex with an infected partner (either giving or getting oral sex) is much lower than the risk of getting HIV from anal or vaginal sex with an infected partner. This may not be true for other STDs – in one study of gay men with syphilis, 1 out of 5 reported having only oral sex.
- Getting HIV from oral sex may be less likely than vaginal or anal sex, but it still carries risk. If you are having oral sex you should still protect yourself. Repeated unprotected oral sex exposure to HIV may represent a considerable risk for spread of HIV, as well as other STDs for which the risk of spread through oral sex has not been as well studied.
- It is possible that getting certain STDs, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, in the throat may not pose as great a threat to an infected person’s health as getting an STD in the genital area or rectum. Having these infections in the throat might increase the risk of getting HIV. Having gonorrhea in the throat also may lead to spread of the disease throughout the body. In addition:
- Having infections of chlamydia and gonorrhea in the throat may make it easier to spread these infections to others through oral sex. This is especially important for gonorrhea, since throat infections are harder to treat than urinary, genital or rectal infections.
- Infections from certain STDs, such as syphilis and HIV, spread throughout the body. Therefore, infections that are acquired in the throat may lead to the same health problems as infections acquired in the genitals or rectum.
- Mouth and throat infections by certain types of HPV may develop into oral or neck cancer.
What May Increase the Chances of Giving or Getting an STD through Oral Sex?
It is possible that certain factors may increase a person’s chances of getting HIV or other STDs during oral sex if exposed to an infected partner, such as:
- Having poor oral health which can include tooth decay, gum disease or bleeding gums, and oral cancer.
- Having sores in the mouth or on the genitals.
- Being exposed to the “pre-cum” or “cum” (also known as pre-ejaculate or ejaculate) of an infected partner.
- However, no scientific studies have been done to show whether or not these factors actually do increase the risk of getting HIV or STDs from oral sex.
What Can You Do to Prevent STD Transmission During Oral Sex?
You can lower your chances of giving or getting STDs during oral sex by using a condom, dental dam or other barrier method each and every time you have oral sex.
For oral sex on the penis:
- Cover the penis with a non-lubricated latex condom.
- Use plastic (polyurethane) condoms if you or your partner is allergic to latex.
- For oral sex on the vagina or anus:
- Use a dental dam.
- Cut open a condom to make a square, and put it between the mouth and the partner’s vagina or anus.
The only way to avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting an STD:
- Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected with an STD (e.g., a partner who has been tested and has negative STD test results).
- Using latex condoms the right way every time you have sex.
It’s important to remember that many infected individuals may be unaware of their infection because STDs often have no symptoms and are unrecognized.