Cunnilingus

Published: 07 April 2009
  • Cunnilingus is considered low risk.
  • The very few case reports of HIV transmission are limited to people performing cunnilingus (rather than receiving it).

Much of the information in the preceding sections is relevant. In particular, the previously described systematic review1 included two studies which included cunnilingus in assessments of the risk per oral sex act.2 3 In both cases the estimate was zero - no transmissions were reported.

Biologically, there is a potential for transmission of HIV by performing cunnilingus  (using the mouth, lips and tongue to stimulate the female genitals) because vaginal fluid and menstrual blood (both of which can contain significant amounts of virus) can get into the mouth. There have only been a very small number of case reports of HIV transmission attributed to performing cunnilingus (some of which have turned out to be based on false reports), and no large studies. Performing cunnilingus is therefore classified as a low-risk activity. Any minimal risk that might be present can be further reduced by using latex barriers such as dental dams.

HIV infection through receiving cunnilingus is considered a remote possibility. The person performing it would have to have bleeding gums, but it is unlikely that there would be enough blood to transmit HIV. Moreover, there have been no documented cases of HIV transmission through receiving cunnilingus.

References

  1. Baggaley RF et al. Systematic review of orogenital HIV-1 transmission probabilities. International Journal of Epidemiology 37:1255-65, 2008
  2. Del Romero J et al. Evaluating the risk of HIV transmission through unprotected orogenital sex. AIDS 16(9): 1296-1297, 2002
  3. Raiteri R et al. Lesbian sex and the risk of HIV transmission AIDS 12:450-51, 1998
This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
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This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.