Oral Sex


Image caption: Oral Sex Performed on Woman: Three-dimensional visualization reconstructed from scanned human data. Lateral view of cunnilingis, or oral sex performed on a woman. HIV, herpes, genital warts (HPV), gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis A, and even yeast infections can all be acquired through oral sex. A latex barrier such as a condom or dental dam can lower the risk of transmission of HIV and other STDs.

Oral Sex and HIV Risk

  • The risk of HIV transmission through oral sex is much less than that from anal or vaginal sex-but it is not zero.
  • Performing oral sex on an HIV-infected man, with ejaculation in the mouth, is the riskiest oral sex activity.
  • Factors that may increase the risk of HIV transmission through oral sex are oral ulcers, bleeding gums, genital sores, and the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases.

Oral sex involves giving or receiving oral stimulation (i.e., sucking or licking) to the penis (fellatio), the vagina (cunnilingus), or the anus (anilingus). HIV can be transmitted during any of these activities, but the risk is much less than that from anal or vaginal sex. Receiving fellatio, giving or receiving cunnilingus, and giving or receiving anilingus carry little to no risk. The highest oral sex risk is to individuals performing fellatio on an HIV-infected man, with ejaculation in the mouth.1,2

Risk of HIV

Even though oral sex carries a lower risk of HIV transmission than other sexual activities, the risk is not zero. It is difficult to measure the exact risk because people who practice oral sex may also practice other forms of sex during the same encounter. When transmission occurs, it may be the result of oral sex or other, riskier sexual activities, such as anal or vaginal sex.

If the person receiving oral sex has HIV, their blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, or vaginal fluid may contain the virus. If the person performing oral sex has HIV, blood from their 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), vagina, cervix, or anus, or through cuts and sores.

Several factors may increase the risk of HIV transmission through oral sex, including oral ulcers, bleeding gums, genital sores, and the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Risk of Other Infections

In addition to HIV, other organisms can be transmitted through oral sex with an infected partner, leading to herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, genital warts (human papillomavirus, or HPV), intestinal parasites (amebiasis), or hepatitis A or B infection.

Reducing the Risk

The following things can reduce the risk of getting HIV through oral sex:

  • If giving oral sex, avoid having your partner ejaculate in your mouth.
  • Use barriers, such as condoms, natural rubber latex sheets, dental dams, or cut-open nonlubricated condoms between your mouth and your partner's genitals or rectum.

The risk of getting HIV from oral sex is lower if you are already taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) consistently and correctly or if your partner is living with HIV and is taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) consistently and correctly. PrEP is a drug (Truvada) that can be prescribed to people at substantial risk of HIV to prevent infection. ART is a combination of drugs to treat HIV in people who already have HIV.

Keep in mind that barrier methods are the only way to protect against some STDs, including gonorrhea of the throat. Although the chance of getting or transmitting HIV from rimming (mouth to rectum) is small, there is a greater chance of transmitting hepatitis A and B, parasites, and other bacteria to the partner who is doing the rimming. There are effective vaccines that protect against hepatitis A and B and the human papillomavirus infections (HPV).

Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, Sexual Transmitted Diseases and Tuberculosis Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Genital herpes is usually spread by having vaginal, oral, or anal sex. One in five women ages 14 to 49 has genital herpes.1 There is no cure for herpes. But you can take medicine to prevent outbreaks and to lower your risk of passing genital herpes to your partner.

Office on Women's Health in the Office / U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Oral sex or oral intercourse is sexual activity involving the stimulation of the genitalia of a person by another person using the mouth (including the lips, tongue or teeth) or throat. Cunnilingus is oral sex performed on a female, while fellatio is oral sex performed on a male. Anilingus, another form of oral sex, is oral stimulation of a person's anus. Oral stimulation of other parts of the body (as in kissing and licking) is usually not considered oral sex.

Oral sex may be performed as foreplay to incite sexual arousal before other sexual activities (such as vaginal or anal intercourse), or as an erotic and physically intimate act in its own right. Like most forms of sexual activity, oral sex can pose a risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs). However, the transmission risk for oral sex, especially HIV transmission, is significantly lower than for vaginal or anal sex.

Oral sex is often regarded as taboo, but most countries do not have laws which ban the practice. Commonly, people do not regard oral sex as affecting the virginity of either partner, though opinions on the matter vary. People may also have negative feelings or sexual inhibitions about giving or receiving oral sex, or may flatly refuse to engage in the practice.


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The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.