Ask EROS has anonymously published questions and answers from or
"Ask EROS Program" and "Ask EROS-online." Asked
by your fellow students, these questions were answered by our very
Can HIV be absorbed through the skin?
Oral sex and HIV...
EROS, There's a lot of it out there, so I'm worried. Can
HIV be absorbed through the skin? Just Asking
Just Asking, You're right to be concerned.
Glad you asked. No, HIV cannot be absorbed through the skin. There
needs to be a break in the skin for the virus to enter the body.
It also cannot be transmitted by day to day contact in the workplace
or school. The virus does not survive very long outside the human
body, and fortunately it's not airborne, so you can't get it from
somebody sneezing. Nor can you get it from toilet seats, swimming
pools, or drinking fountains. The only way to get it by means of
skin, is if you have some opening in your skin, and that opening
comes in contact with an infected body fluid (semen, blood, vaginal
secretions, breast milk, and pre-ejaculatory fluid). Of course prevention
is the key, since we don't have the capabilities to get rid of it
once it's inside you. Abstinence works extremely well. If that's
not a possibility for you, latex condoms are the next best thing.
An EROS counselor would be happy to go over your options with you,
or make a presentation to a group. Thanks again for asking. It's
In reference to the EROS question printed on October 31 (can a man
get AIDS from getting a blow job?) I disagree with the answer "highly
unlikely." This can give an unconcerned individual the go ahead
for unsafe sex. Abrasions occur in the mouth, even when we brush
or floss our teeth. What if the giver had a cut in the mouth? Couldn't
blood from the mouth transmit infection (via microscopic tears in
the penis)? Also, you did not address the possibilities of getting
HIV for the giver of oral sex. The message is practice safe sex,
wear a latex condom, and use a spermicide. Thanks for getting the
message across. A Concerned Mom
Thank you for reading our column and for being
as concerned about your son's or daughter's welfare. You are correct,
the message is: if you are going to have sex--practice safer sex.
We still heartily endorse abstinence as HIV prevention, but we know
that not everyone can or will be abstinent.
address your initial concern, we stand by our answer of "highly
unlikely." We double-checked our response with an alternative testing
site and with the AIDS hotline, both of whom agreed with us. For
a man to be infected with HIV by having oral sex performed on him,
copious amounts of blood would have to be in his partner's mouth.
This could possible occur if the partner just had major dental surgery,
or is bleeding from severely infected gums, neither of which are
optimal conditions for someone to want to perform oral sex.
Yes, abrasions do occur in the mouth from brushing and flossing
teeth, or from eating sharp, crunchy foods such as potato chips,
and these cuts do serve as an entry way to the virus for the person
performing oral sex, but they do not produce enough blood to infect
the recipient. As for addressing the possibility of transmitting
HIV to the giver, we did do that. To quote our response: "To be
protected from these [HIV, herpes] and other infections during oral
sex (and to protect his partner), the recipient can wear a latex
condom." Again, we are delighted you are involved in the fight against
HIV, and thank you again for your concern.