Anonymous on October 18, 2011

How can I get HIV?

I just started hanging out with a new guy. We’ve been kissing and I gave him a blow job the other day without a condom. Should I be worried? How can I get HIV?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on October 18, 2011

You’ve asked a couple great questions about how to have safer sex and how to prevent HIV. 

The fact is, you can get HIV from any sexual activity if the person you’re with has HIV. To be clear, you won’t get HIV from kissing only on the lips, but French kissing (or “deep kissing”) carries a small risk if your partner has HIV...especially if one or both of you have open sores or bleeding gums. 

Oral sex also carries some risk of getting HIV for either person...the virus can enter the body through the cells surrounding the mouth. It’s also possible for someone receiving oral sex to get HIV from an infected partner. 

What puts you at greatest risk for HIV? Unprotected anal sex and unprotected vaginal sex. 

In other words, because you haven’t had unprotected intercourse, you’re at a lower risk...but, from your description, you may still be at risk from deep kissing and unprotected oral sex if your partner is HIV-positive. Also keep in mind that HIV can be spread by sharing intravenous drug needles. 

How do you know if you have HIV? Getting tested is the only way to know for sure if you or your partner is infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 1 in 5 people with HIV don’t know they’re infected because it can take up to 10 years for HIV to show any obvious signs or symptoms. The good news is, if it turns out that you’re HIV-positive, there are a number of effective treatments available that can help you live a healthy life for as long as possible...especially if you’re diagnosed and treated early. 

If you want to know more about how people get HIV, or if you’re wondering about HIV symptoms, complications and treatment options, see our Expert Guide to HIV + AIDS.

Related info: 

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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