Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions
Could I still be at risk for HIV even if my partner isn’t infected?
I’m gay and I like having oral sex with my friend. But I heard that oral sex can be risky for getting HIV/AIDS. My partner is free from these diseases…do I have anything to worry about?
Thanks for your important question. I’m happy to help you sort out information about your HIV risk.
First, yes, oral sex is one way to spread or get HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) from an infected partner. However, if both you and your partner have recently been tested for HIV and other STDs, and you’re both negative, your risk of catching an STD from oral sex is low.
If you haven’t both been tested recently, it’s a good idea to do so...testing is the only way to know your STD status and that of your partner. Why? Many STDs, including HIV, don’t show symptoms right away...or ever. But they can cause lasting health problems if left untreated.
And because you’re a gay man, testing is particularly important. According to new calculations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men who have sex with men (MSM) are one of the most at-risk populations for HIV...making up 61% of new HIV infections in the United States in 2009.
Once you’ve both been tested ⎼ and treated for STDs if necessary ⎼ you can decide how risky sexual activity will be. If you’re both negative for all STDs including HIV, and you’re in a monogamous relationship, your risk of catching an STD is low. But if one of you finds out you have an STD that can be treated, but not cured ⎼ like HIV or herpes ⎼ taking extra precautions like using a condom for oral sex (and anal sex) is a good idea. But keep in mind that while condoms help reduce the risk of spreading STDs, they aren’t foolproof.
For more information about HIV risks and prevention, visit our Expert Guide to HIV. There, you’ll also find more detailed information about HIV symptoms, complications and treatment.
Thanks again for writing. I hope that you and your partner can speak openly about each other’s sexual history, and that you continue to take care of each other by getting tested and practicing safer sex.
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.