Thursday, October 29, 2009

Q & A: "chances are of getting the AIDS virus when performing oral sex on a woman"

Q. I was wondering what the chances are of
getting the AIDS virus when performing oral sex on a woman. If
there is a risk, what can I do to protect myself? And -- if you
kiss a person with herpes can you get the virus in your system?
How about if you give oral sex to a person with herpes, can that
bring it into your system?

Can you pick up HIV or herpes from oral sex? The simple
answer is yes. It is possible. But here are some things
to keep in mind.

A. HIV is present in the semen of men who have AIDS or who are HIV
positive. When ejaculate is taken into the mouth, there is the
potential for the virus to enter into even normal mucosal cells
lining the mouth, resulting in infection. If there is any break
in the normal mucosa, whether it is from a cold sore, inflamed
gums, cracked lips, or any other lesion, the likelihood of
transmission increases. Pre-ejaculate fluid is also technically
capable of transmitting infection.

Vaginal fluids of a woman with AIDS, or who is HIV positive, also
contain HIV. Therefore, oral sex with a woman can result in
transmission of the virus. If any menstrual blood is present in
the vaginal fluid, this too can be a route of transmission.

Herpes is a little bit different in that most times an active
herpes sore must be present for transmission to occur. Check out
a previous herpes question for more information and an important
qualifier to this. Although one type of herpes tends to be found
in the mouth, and another type in the genitals, the symptoms are
indistinguishable. During oral sex, genital herpes may be
transmitted to the mouth, and oral herpes may be transmitted to
the genitals. It is perfectly safe, however, to kiss a person
with active genital herpes on the lips or mouth.

Since neither HIV nor herpes can be cured, the usual advice is to
use some type of barrier prevention. With men, using a condom
during oral sex protects both parties. You may want to experiment
with different styles, colors, flavors, or other different types
of condoms, to compensate for the loss of touch or intimacy that
might otherwise be experienced. For oral sex with a woman, use of
a layer of plastic wrap, or a dental dam, over the vaginal area
will provide protection. It does seem a bit sterile or
off-putting to use these barriers, but at this time there are not
too many other reasonable alternatives.

If the virus is present in semen and vaginal fluid, how likely is
transmission during oral sex in the real world? It's impossible
to predict. Factors such as where you live, who you hook up with,
what you do, and a dozen other variables would have to be
considered. The human mind, being uncomfortable with more than a
few variables at once, and being driven at times by sexual
desire, cannot, and does not want to, think this all through in
the heat of the moment. There are many reports of people who have
contracted AIDS whose only reported risk factor is receiving oral
sex from a man. Could it happen with one encounter? Yes. Does the
risk increase with multiple encounters? Possibly. Each encounter
can be viewed as a flip of the coin. You either get infected, or
you don't. With HIV, there are few if any "mild" infections. The
odds of progression to AIDS, and eventually to death, is very
high. So it's an all-or-none game.

-- R. Jandl

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