Anonymous
Hi there,
I have a follow up question on the answer to my above post:
I understand that the main difference between transmission through food and oral sex is the exposure of hiv to air, making the former impossible but leaving a low risk for the latter. In the answer it was mentioned that risk would also remain with oral sex if there are micro cuts inside the mouth (from brushing teeth or flossing, I suppose?!). It is here that I get confused as in other posts it says that only cuts or sores requiring stitching or other type of medical attention would provide sufficient access to the bloodstream to make transmission possible. Could you please clarify?
There is a reason why I'm being so ocd with this answer (sorry for this, by the way!) as I would like to know just how well an insulation saliva really is, if there are bodily fluids coming onto/into your mouth either via food, objects or human contact (and if the time factor of hiv being exposed to air is playing a big role here, so if it has been only mere seconds or minutes)
Many thanks!!
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Anonymous
Hi there and thanks for posting to the Helpline,

It sounds like you're still feeling confused about risk, and I'm glad you decided to follow up!

I took a look at the answer to your previous post... I believe the volunteer who answered your original question was trying to say that it's possible in theory to acquire HIV through small cuts in the mouth if there is enough HIV containing fluid present. This might overwhelm the saliva's enzymes, allowing for transmission to occur. But this is really just in theory, and the incidence of transmission occurring in this way is quite low. And usually in situations like this, it's actually the presence of larger cuts and sores alongside these small ones that allows for transmission.

Transmission through the mouth is a little bit different than transmission through the outer skin on your body. Since its possible for there to be a fluid transfer without air contact first, the mouth is slightly more sensitive to acquiring HIV. On your external body the only kinds of cuts that can allow for transmission are wounds requiring stitches or hospital attention. But in the mouth, it's somewhat possible, with certain circumstances (copious amounts of bodily fluid or blood entering the mouth) for smaller cuts to allow for transmission.

So about your last question, if the food, object, or anything else containing the virus were to enter your mouth, if it's been exposed to the air for a couple of seconds it will have no chance of transmitting. If bodily fluid enters your mouth directly without contacting the air first, or if it were to enter within seconds of air exposure, you would really only be at risk if you have had major fresh dental work (or something else causing large or deep wounds in your mouth). That is, unless there was a very large amount (think multiple mouthfuls) of HIV containing fluid... in this case there may be a risk of acquiring HIV from smaller cuts or sores. But again, this is rarely a way for transmission to occur, and this situation is also an uncommon one to find yourself in.

This should clarify things for you, and if not, don't hesitate to contact us again. When you ask us questions it helps other Helpline users who are wanting similar information. And of course, we're here to answer your questions. Please don't apologize for asking them!


Sabina

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