Can HIV be transmitted through oral sex (fellatio and cunnilingus)?

Yes, but it's only a small risk.

HIV is transmitted through seminal and vaginal fluids, including menstrual fluids. The virus can enter the body through the bloodstream or by passing through delicate mucous membranes, such as inside the vagina, rectum or urethra.

If a person gives fellatio and has bleeding gums or a cut or ulcer inside their mouth, HIV could enter their bloodstream through infected fluid. This could also happen if infected fluid from a woman gets into the mouth of her partner during oral sex.

Using a condom during sex, including oral and anal sex, is the best way to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Avoid using an oil-based lubricant, such as Vaseline or baby oil, because they can weaken the condom and increase the risk of it splitting.

You can use a dental dam to cover the anus or female genitals during oral sex. A dental dam is a latex or polyurethane (very thin, soft plastic) square, measuring about 15cm by 15cm. It acts as a barrier to help stop STIs passing from one person to another.

Transmission of HIV

HIV is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids such as:

  • seminal fluid
  • vaginal fluids, including menstrual fluids
  • breast milk
  • blood
  • the mucous found in the rectum
  • pre-cum (the fluid that the penis produces for lubrication before ejaculation)

You can't catch HIV from:

  • kissing
  • being sneezed on by someone with HIV
  • sharing baths, towels or cutlery with an HIV-infected person
  • swimming in a pool or sitting on a toilet seat that someone with HIV has used
  • animals or insects such as mosquitoes

Other body fluids, such as saliva, sweat or urine don’t contain enough of the virus to infect another person.

Read the answers to more questions about sexual health.

Further information:

HIV

An expert explains how HIV is passed on, who is at risk of getting it, and how it affects the immune system.

Media last reviewed: 14/05/2013

Next review due: 14/05/2015

Page last reviewed: 28/06/2013

Next review due: 28/06/2015