How safe is oral sex?
The word 'Oral' describes anything that has to do with the mouth. Oral sex includes having sex using mainly the mouth on someone's penis, vagina or anus. This type of sex involves licking or sucking someone’s genitals or private parts. The most common terms for oral sex are 'giving head' or 'blow job', which is oral sex given to a man. Oral sex given to a woman is known as 'going down on' her. Anilingus (oral-anal sex) is when the mouth is used to stimulate someone's anus.
Is it risky?
There has been research where it was found that some people believe that oral sex is the 'safest sex'. However, having oral sex without using any protection is also risky - just like it is risky to have unprotected vaginal or anal sex. Although the risk is much lower, it is possible to get infected with a sexually transmitted illness (STI) such as HIV, from giving oral sex to an infected person without using any protection, especially if an infected person ejaculates in the mouth of the person giving oral sex or if an infected woman receiving oral sex is on her period. If there are any sores or cuts in the mouth, this will increase the risk of being infected via oral sex.
Which STIs can be passed on via oral sex?
There are other STIs, including HIV, that can be passed through unprotected oral sex including:
There are two key kinds of herpes.
- HSV type 1 usually causes cold sores around the mouth. If a person with this type of herpes has unprotected oral sex with an uninfected partner, the STI could be transmitted to the genital area, causing genital sores.
- The second kind of herpes is HSV type 2 and it generally causes sores around the genitals.
The uninfected partner can be infected when the STI is transmitted during unprotected oral sex if one partner’s mouth gets in contact with a skin rash or an open sore.
This STI can easily be transmitted through oral sex. The infection can be passed in two ways. It can either be passed from an infected partner’s genitals to a person's throat, or it can be passed from an infected partner’s throat to a person's genitals.
Transmission from an HIV positive receptive partner to an HIV negative active partner may occur when the active partner gets sexual fluid (semen or vaginal fluid) or blood (from menstruation or a wound somewhere in the genital or anal region) into a cut, sore, ulcer or area of inflammation somewhere in their mouth or throat.
The most common forms of hepatitis are Hepatitis A, B and C. There might be no symptoms noticed by the infected person in the first weeks.
- Hepatitis A is normally found in human faeces. This STI may be passed through unprotected anal-to-oral sex.
- Hepatitis B may be transmitted during oral sex in a similar way to HIV. It is usually found in sexual fluids and blood.
- Hepatitis C is generally only found in blood, and will only be transmitted if there is blood (example, menstrual blood) present during oral sex.
Chlamydia can infect the throat via oral sex. Without any STI screening, a person with chlamydia may not show any symptoms, as a result may not know they are infected.
How do I protect myself and my partner during oral sex?
To have safe oral sex, use a non-spermicidal condom. A non-spermicidal condom is a condom that helps prevent the transmission of STIs during sex. You can use an oral barrier such as a plastic wrap to make oral-anal sex safer. To make oral-vaginal sex or oral-anal sex safer you can use an oral barrier such as a plastic wrap or a dental dam (a thin square of latex).
You can almost completely reduce your chances of being infected from oral sex when you use condoms every time you have oral sex. Flavoured condoms are available for those who don't like the taste of latex. A condom cut open can serve as a physical barrier for oral-vaginal sex or oral-anal sex to prevent transmission of any STIs. You will need a pair of scissors and a condom. (See steps on how to properly cut open a condom below).
Steps to properly cut open a condom:
- Tear open the condom wrapper.
- Unroll the condom completely.
- Carefully cut the condom straight down with the scissors all the way from the elastic band (the bottom of the condom) to the tip.
- Don’t poke ANY extra holes in the condom while cutting.
- Once you are done, put the scissors away and put the condom over the vagina.
Chomas, point is if a person is infected with any of the STIs, there will always be a risk they could transmit the infection through oral sex. Be sure to get tested for HIV and other STIs with your partner before having sex. Whether you have oral, vaginal or anal sex, it is vital that you have protected sex - every time.
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