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Ask Dr. K

I was wondering how safe oral sex is -- both giving and receiving.

Questions about oral sex are probably the most common ones we get. In terms of HIV, oral sex both ways is very safe. The University of California San Francisco and the San Francisco Dept. of Public Health just completed a study of men in San Francisco who have only had oral sex and found zero new HIV infections. A very recent study from Spain confirmed earlier studies that oral sex is safe sex in terms of HIV. However, there are case reports and individual experiences that support that HIV can be transmitted through oral sex, although rarely. As far as whether oral sex is riskier if you swallow, truthfully no one really knows.

What's important is that other STDs like syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and herpes are definitely transmitted through oral sex, and oral sex has likely contributed to San Francisco's current syphilis outbreak. Many of these infections are easily diagnosed with simple tests and can be treated with available medications.

So my advice is: Enjoy oral sex and get regular check-ups. A good check-up includes throat testing for gonorrhea, rectal testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia, urine testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia and blood tests for herpes, syphilis and HIV. We call that the grand slam!

To your health,
Dr. K

Last modified on Thursday, November 19, 2009.
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