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HIV and AIDS

Where Is The Data On HIV Transmission Through Oral Sex?

04/25/2005

Question:

Hello once again. I am a 23 year old boy. My question is about oral sex transmission. I know that "theorotically" it's possible for a person to get infected via unprotected oral sex, even if that person has a healthy mouth(i.e.without open cuts/sores). But in life, many things are theorotically possible, but hardly happen in real life. What I want to know is: If "theorotically" it's possible, where is the "practical" proof? Do we have any literature, or any case study results/experiments or any documented cases, in which it is proved,that such transmission through a "healthy" mouth, is possible in real life and that it's not just a "theorotical possibility"? If yes, please tell me about such reports.

Sometimes I feel that the experts have NO data, about documented cases or study results to prove the "theorotical possibility", but only for precaution sake, they discourage unprotected oral sex. Is it right? I know I have emailed you many times and am also aware that you must be terribly busy. Please reply back. Thanking you.

Answer:

HIV can be acquired by a person with a "normal" mouth giving oral sex to an HIV infected individual.  There are documented cases of this occurring.  As you can imagine, it is very hard to generate risk figures, because most often oral sex is not the only sexual activity between two people.

Transmission of HIV in this manner makes sense, if you remember that HIV infects lymph tissue, and the throat is surrounded by lymph tissue in the tonsils and adenoids. (By the way, tonsillectomy only removes a portion of this lymph tissue. there is still quite a bit left after the surgery)

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Response by:

Peter T Frame, MD Peter T Frame, MD
Emeritus Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati