Risks of Oral Sex

V1, N2, March 1991

Test Yourself

  1. True or False: Researchers generally believe that HIV can be transmitted during oral sex, but the risk of infection from oral sex is believed to be lower than from unprotected anal sex. [answer]
  2. In 1990, the anonymous testing program in San Francisco, seeing about 200 clients weekly, reported how many cases of HIV infection in which clients state oral sex is their only risk activity? a) none, b) 10 a week, c) two in the past year, d) about one every other week. [answer]
  3. True or False: Reports in 1990 of HIV infection from oral sex are disputed because the reports are all from individuals who also engaged in anal sex shortly before learning they were infected. [answer]
  4. True or False: Highly physical forms of oral sex, such as when a man thrust his penis deep into his partner's mouth, may increase the risk of infection. [answer]
  5. True or False: Individuals who brush or floss their teeth immediately before or after receptive oral sex may increase their risk of being infected. [answer]
  6. An increasing number of cases of infection from oral sex have been reported because a) oral sex has become easier to isolate as a risk factor; b) HIV in semen has become more concentrated, c) laboratories can pinpoint oral sex transmission, d) all of the above. [answer]
  7. In a study of 82 men who tested antibody positive for HIV, how many reported recently engaging in oral sex but no other risk behavior? a) 45, b)1, c) 13, d) 0. [answer]
  8. True or False: Surveys find that oral sex has become less popular as the HIV epidemic continues. [answer]

Discussion Questions

  • Oral sex is a significant risk, but some people feel its risk is overstated. Consider ways in which it may be overstated, and why this is so.
  • Much is still unknown about infection during oral sex. Discuss how you can tell clients what is known and not known.
  • What level of risk do your clients attach to oral sex? Why do you think they have these beliefs?
  • Some people believe that placing restrictions on oral sex will lead individuals to believe that practicing safer sex is impossible. Do you agree? How would you deal with clients who say they are unable to modify their oral sex?
  • Counselors who have discussed oral sex as a risk have been accused by some of being "sex negative," or not supportive of positive feelings about sexuality. Is there a "sex positive" way to talk about the risks of oral sex?

Answers to "Test Yourself"

  1. True. Oral sex has been found to carry a risk for infection, but not as much risk as unprotected anal sex.
  2. D. About one every other week.
  3. False. Two subjects reported they had performed anal sex in the previous two years, and a third reported performing protected anal sex once in the past year.
  4. True. Highly physical forms of oral sex are believed to increase the risk of infection because they may damage throat tissue and increase susceptibility for throat-based gonorrhea, herpes and abrasions.
  5. True. Brushing teeth immediately before of after oral sex may irritate or inflame oral ulcerations.
  6. A. Oral sex has become much easier to isolate as a risk factor.
  7. C. Thirteen men tested antibody positive after reporting oral sex as their only recent risk activity.
  8. False. Surveys show that oral sex among gay men increased in popularity between 1987 and 1989.

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