Public health types are always agonising about oral sex. Should we say it’s dangerous or not? Now, Swedish researchers have shown that lots of oral sex with an HIV-infected partner may actually be protective against the virus.
The study, published in the (expensive, subscription only) AIDS journal and helpfully summarised by Aidsmap suggests that men who give lots of blow jobs to their HIV-positive partners develop antibodies specific to that partner’s virus, protecting themselves against infection. The more virus their partner has kicking around in their semen, the higher the concentration of specific antibodies, and the protection seems to last for quite a while too. None of the men became infected over the course of the study, even though their partners were not all on treatment.
I’ve never been one for warning people off oral sex — while it is not 100 percent risk free it’s almost always safer than any of the alternatives that provide as much fun. But I’d hate to lose my agonised public health type credentials entirely, so I’ll point out a caveat in this study. The couples who were recruited, an infected man with an uninfected partner, had to have been together for at least 6 months — beyond the most dangerous period for infection in most cases. Any guys who did get HIV through oral sex in that risky early part of their relationship wouldn’t be in the study, because they would no longer be in a “discordant” relationship.