Anonymous on August 15, 2011

Is it possible to get an STD from kissing someone?

I recently started dating after a divorce and it seems that each date ends with a kiss. Is it possible to get an STD from kissing someone? I always make sure she doesn’t have any visible cold sores, but I’m still concerned that I could get a more serious STD like HIV. I read that this is only possible if there is visible blood in her mouth (from something like flossing). Is there any STD that is transmitted via saliva?

answered by Linda Lesondak, PhD on August 15, 2011

First, I commend you for taking charge of your sexual’s always best to ask for information, rather than make assumptions the might result in potentially serious health risks.

But don’t fear a good-night kiss.

Rest assured, catching a sexually transmitted infection through kissing is extremely unlikely...with a few exceptions.

You’re right: avoid kissing anyone with visible cold sores on the mouth area as type 1 herpes (HSV-1) can be transmitted through kissing. However, most of us have been exposed to this virus by the time we’re in grade fact, about half of the U.S. population carries the virus, often transmitted through a non-sexual kiss from a relative.  

And many people have HSV-1 without ever having cold sores, so they’re not even aware that they have it. One study, published by The New England Journal of Medicine, showed that 2-9% of adults and 5-8% percent of children with HSV-1 have no symptoms. If you also have had cold sores, you won’t catch them again from someone else.

What about HIV? That depends on the type of kissing. Closed mouth “pecks” don’t pose any risk of transmitting HIV. There is, however, a remote risk that HIV could be transmitted from an HIV-positive person to an HIV-negative person through prolonged French kissing...and only if there are open sores or bleeding gums present. It is recommended that people who are HIV-positive avoid deep kissing because of this.

If you’re still concerned about whether you might have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection, you might wish to consider getting tested for common STDs on a regular basis. And for more information about STD risks and how to help prevent STDs, check out our Expert Guide to STD Basics.

I wish you the very best health and well-being.

Related Info:

Linda Lesondak, PhD

Dr. Lesondak is a Community Psychologist with the Chicago Department of Public Health. Her areas of expertise include STDs, HIV, preventive care, public health and community planning, as well as human sexuality and women’s health. Dr. Lesondak was educated at Georgia University in Atlanta.

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