amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Poll: Is Oral Sex Safe Sex? [November 2007]

November 2007 - There is a widespread belief that oral sex is safe sex. The truth is that HIV can be transmitted through oral sex, even if the risk is substantially lower than with unprotected vaginal or anal intercourse. When performing oral sex, you may come into contact with another person’s body fluids, including semen, vaginal fluid or blood. The risk of acquiring HIV increases if the person performing oral sex has cuts or sores around his or her mouth or throat, or if the HIV-positive person receiving oral sex ejaculates in the mouth of his or her partner.1. Although it is rare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported a few cases of HIV transmission from performing oral sex on a person infected with HIV.1

Poll oral sex

Results of amfAR's poll as of ending date, 12/13/07. 

There is growing anecdotal evidence that adolescents engage in oral sex as a way to avoid unwanted pregnancy, to preserve virginity, or to protect themselves from relatively unsafe activities such as vaginal or anal intercourse.2 Although the practice of oral or anal sex eliminates pregnancy risk, it does not protect against transmitting or acquiring sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as human papillomavirus, herpes simplex virus, hepatitis, gonorrhea, syphilis, chancroid, Chlamydia, or HIV.3 To avoid these types of infections, it is important to practice risk reduction during oral sex–as well as during vaginal or anal sex.

It is also important to know that sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, can be passed to another person even if there are no obvious symptoms. HIV infection and some sexually transmitted infections have serious and lifelong consequences. If you perform oral sex on your male partner (fellatio), be sure that he is wearing a condom. If you perform oral sex on your female partner (cunnilingus) or perform oral sex that involves contact with your partner’s anus (analingus), be sure to use a latex barrier (such as a dental dam or a cut-open condom that makes a square) between your mouth and the vagina or the anus.4

For additional information about oral sex and STIs, please visit the CDC website


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Questions and Answers. Can I Get HIV from Oral Sex? Available at:

[2] Remez L. Oral Sex Among Adolescents: Is it Sex or Abstinence? Family Planning Perspectives 2000; 32(6): 298-304.

[3] Edwards S, Carne C. Oral Sex and the Transmission of Viral STIs. Sexually Transmitted Infections 1998; 74(1): 6-10.

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV/AIDS Update. Preventing the Transmission of HIV, the Virus That Causes AIDS. What You Should Know About Oral Sex. December 2000. Available at: