Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions
Is oral sex with another woman a risk factor for catching AIDS?
Can I get AIDS from having oral sex with another woman? How can I prevent it?
Daniel Perlman, MD, MBA on September 26, 2011
Thanks for your question about AIDS and how to prevent this serious disease. Before getting to HIV risk factors, let’s take a moment to note the difference between HIV and AIDS.
Just so you know, HIV is a virus that you can catch through unprotected sex with an infected person. HIV ⎼ particularly untreated HIV ⎼ attacks the body’s ability to fight off infections. If HIV attacks the immune system long enough, the body can no longer fight infections...that’s when AIDS develops. The good news? If HIV is detected early and treatment starts promptly, the immune system stays healthier, longer…and the chances of developing AIDS or AIDS-related cancer and infections down the road are greatly reduced. In fact, many people with treated HIV live long, normal lives…and some never get AIDS.
With that in mind, you asked if woman-to-woman oral sex is a risk factor for HIV infection...the answer is yes. If one partner is infected with HIV, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, caution that oral sex could result in transmission of the virus…especially if a dental dam isn’t used for protection. However, oral sex has a lower risk of transmission than anal or vaginal sex.
You can reduce your risk of catching an STD from oral sex by using a latex dental dam as a barrier between mouth and vagina…not only will this reduce your risk of HIV infection, but it will also reduce your risk of exposure to other STDs.
Keep in mind that many STDs, including HIV, don’t show signs or symptoms right away, so the only way to know if you or your sexual partner has an STD is to get tested. To be on the safe side, I encourage you to get tested for HIV and other common STDs, like herpes 1 and 2, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
The best way to prevent HIV and other STDs? Abstinence (no sex) is the only sure way to prevent STDs. But I understand that may not be a great option. The next best way to protect yourself is to be monogamous (have sex with only one partner) with someone who’s been tested (and treated if necessary) for STDs.
You can find more information about prevention and HIV risks, complications and testing in our Expert Guide to HIV.
Thanks for writing, and I wish you good health.
- Royal London Hospital: A case-controlled study of the sexual health needs in lesbians
- Sydney Hospital, Australia: Sexually transmitted infections and risk behaviors in women who have sex with women
Dr. Perlman is a Colorado-based infectious disease specialist (including HIV and other STDs) in private practice at Greater Denver Infectious Diseases. Additionally, he is Assistant Clinical Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Dr. Perlman was educated at theUniversity of Maryland School of Medicine, and completed his residency in internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.