Compiled by GayToday
San Francisco, California—Across North America there were groans of dismay and discontent last week as sexually active gay males and others heard news about a new study indicating that oral sex could be responsible for transmitting eight percent of all HIV infections.
This unwelcome report was presented at the 7th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in San Francisco and has since become subject matter for increased discussions about oral sex
in communities elsewhere.
A study of 102 men conducted by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the University of California San Francisco has thrown monkey wrenches into the lives of persons who, without condoms, have enjoyed a behavior long thought to have been safe.
Helen Gayle, the CDC's AIDS chief, told the gathering:
"While oral sex may still be safer than anal intercourse
or vaginal intercourse, it is not without risk and perhaps has higher risk than we would have expected otherwise."
The reducing of sexual options that a study like this portends, as well as the mood of frustration it promotes among "the worried well" are among new concerns now being raised. "Won't people go nuts?" is being heard in some quarters.
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Others are calling for the development of more varied behavioral modes to release sexual energies, invoking the name of the late Michael Callen, a pioneering thinker who, courting safety while remaining uninhibitedly pro-sexual, recommended non-penetrative sexual liaisons, including even group masturbation.
A Centres for Disease Control study that was also presented at the meeting said that those who engage in oral sex may be protected if they are quick to get a "morning-after" treatment.
Although no final judgements about this treatment's efficacy have been made, 400 persons who'd taken HIV drugs after risky encounters waited to do so as long as a day-and-a-half and yet not even one later became infected.
Previous reports from the Centres for Disease Control had led many to believe that HIV transmissions through oral sex probably accounted for no more than 6 in 500,000 cases.
"It is possible for you to become infected with HIV through performing oral sex," says the CDC's Web page: www.cdc.gov/nchstp/hiv-aids/pubs/faq/faq19.htm .
"There have been a few cases of HIV transmission from performing oral sex on a person infected with HIV. While no one knows exactly what the degree of risk is, evidence suggests that the risk is less than that of unprotected anal or vaginal sex," the CDC web page says.
The new CDC study indicates there is a much higher transmission rate.
One of the study's authors, Frederick M. Hecht of San Francisco General Hospital, estimates that anal intercourse remains 100 times riskier than oral sex. "The message is not that everyone will get infected through oral sex," he told attendees.