Although many people are aware of the STI risks associated with penetrative sex, there is a lack of education about STIs that can be transmitted during oral sex. Although transmission is less likely than vaginal and anal sex, there are still many STIs that can be transmitted when giving or receiving oral sex.
What is Oral Sex?
Oral sex – where someone uses their mouth to stimulate a person’s genitals – is a pleasurable way to have sex for people of all gender identities and sexualities. For women and people with vulvas, cunnilingus allows stimulation to focus on the clitoris, which is how most women reach orgasm. For men and men with penile erections, a blow job means extra stimulation to the head/tip of the penis which is full of nerve endings like the clitoris. Analings – or rimming – is also a form of anal sex, where one uses their mouth and tongue to stimulate their partner’s anus.
Can You Get an Sti From Oral Sex?
‘The most common STIs passed during oral sex are herpes, gonorrhea and syphilis,’ explains Becky Lindharkett, workshop facilitator for Sexplane and founder of The Candid Collective. “Less likely, but still possible, to pass on during oral sex are chlamydia, HIV, hepatitis A, B and C and HPV – which cause genital warts.”
How Stis Can Be Passed on During Oral Sex
Lundharkett explains that STIs are spread through skin-to-skin contact during oral sex, the exchange of bodily fluids, or both. ‘For example, if someone has a minor cut or bruise on their lip, bodily fluid exchange is also possible.’ But, she adds, ejaculation doesn’t have to be an STI risk — and STIs can be present pre-ejaculate or pre-cum.
How to Reduce the Risks
To have safe oral sex and reduce your risk of passing on or contracting an STI, you should use protection such as condoms or dental dams (depending on what type of genitalia you have). and what sexual activities you are doing).
Most of us know about condoms and how the protective barrier reduces the risk of passing on STIs. But dental dams are a lesser-known form of protection.
“Dental dams are specifically for use during oral sex that involves the vulva or anus,” Lundharkett explains. ‘They are thin sheets of latex or polyurethane that are stretched over the site to act as a ‘barrier’ and oral sex can then be administered through the dam.
While dental dams aren’t as easy to get hold of as condoms, you may find that some sexual health centers will give them to you for free, just like condoms. They can also be purchased online from well-known brands like British Condoms.
However, be aware that condoms do not protect you from all STIs. ‘Remember that herpes can still be transmitted when using a condom, unless the wound itself is covered by the condom (eg on the shaft of the penis), so it is generally recommended that a person with an active sore “Sex should be avoided if possible,” Lundharket added.
Another way to reduce your risk of getting or getting an STI is to talk openly and honestly with your partner and any medical professional you talk to about your sexual health. do Lund-Harket advises, ‘Ask your partners their STI status and when they were last tested, and tell them honestly about your status and last test.’ And if you’re in a medical setting, be aware that the medical professional you speak with during the test may ask some questions. ‘Be honest with them about the type of sex you’re having so they can evaluate you accordingly.’How to Reduce the Risks.
Where to Get Tested for an STI
If you feel more comfortable talking to a medical professional face-to-face and having a test in person, you can find a local NHS sexual health clinic or service. You could also try sexual health charity Brooke’s ‘Find a Service’ tool.
An alternative is to order a free STI test at your home or at an alternate address. SHL.UK is an excellent service that delivers a variety of tests to your doorstep. You just take the test at home and post it back for free. Results come in a few days.