My boyfriend and I have never used protection during oral sex, and we have only had unprotected vaginal intercourse once. I take birth control pills, and I never miss a dose. I don’t have to worry about catching anything, right?
Actually, you can contract STIs during unprotected oral sex — including HIV. There is a greater risk of becoming infected with HIV or another STI as the performer of oral sex than as the receiver, but there is still a risk as a receiver for both men and women. Additionally, one episode of unprotected vaginal sex can result in transmission of an STI and/or HIV. Taking birth control pills only protects you from conception; oral contraceptives cannot protect you from STI or HIV transmission.
It is important to note that the risk of contracting HIV via oral sex or one encounter of unprotected intercourse is low, but not zero. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it is possible for either partner to become infected with HIV through performing or receiving oral sex, though it is known to be a less common mode of transmission than other sexual behaviors, such as vaginal and anal intercourse. There have been a few recorded cases of HIV transmission from performing oral sex on a person infected with HIV, but it is not known exactly what the degree of risk is.
If the person performing oral sex has HIV, blood from his or her mouth may enter the body of the person receiving oral sex through the lining of the urethra (the opening at the tip of the penis), the lining of the vagina or cervix, the lining of the anus or directly into the body through small cuts or open sores. If the person receiving the oral sex has HIV, his or her blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid or vaginal fluid may contain the virus. Cells lining the mouth of the person performing oral sex may allow HIV to enter his or her body. The risk of HIV transmission is increased if the person performing oral sex has cuts or sores around or in the mouth or throat, if the person receiving oral sex ejaculates in the mouth of the person performing oral sex or if the person receiving oral sex has another sexually transmitted disease. Abstaining from sexual activities is the only way to completely protect yourself from contracting HIV or an STI.
If you would like to be sure you have not contracted anything, University Health Services offers a number of different tests for various STIs. The chlamydia and gonorrhea test is $14, but for students with the Student Health Plan, SHP will fully reimburse this fee. HIV testing is completely free. The herpes (HSV-2) test costs $90 to $150. The syphilis test is $35. Getting tested is the only way you can know for certain whether you have an STI. One in four American adults has an STI, but many have no symptoms and are unaware. The most common STIs on college campuses are genital warts, chlamydia and herpes. Being tested is useful, as most bacterial STIs, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, are relatively easy to cure with antibiotics if they are caught early on. Syphilis is a serious bacterial infection that can result in death if left untreated; however, if detected early, syphilis can be treated with proper antibiotics.
When it comes to protecting yourself and your partner during oral sex, one should use a male condom when performing oral sex on a male and either a dental dam, non-microwaveable plastic wrap or an unlubricated male condom that has been cut open and completely covers the vulva when performing oral sex on a female. Condoms and dental dams come in various flavors, which can make protected oral sex more fun.
Sexually related activities that carry no risk of HIV transmission are non-sexual massages, casual or dry kissing, masturbation (without your partner’s body fluids) and frottage (also known as “dry-humping” or body-to-body rubbing). Beware that you can still contract other STIs, like herpes, HPV and pubic lice, if you have bare skin-to-skin contact with your partner.
— The Sexpert
Interested in Sexual Health? The Sexpert is always looking for passionate members of the community to join the team of sexual health educators who, along with fact-checking from University health professionals, help write these columns. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and, of course, with your questions about sexual health. Don’t be shy!
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/18/31532/