Teens don’t know the risks of oral sex
While many people are aware of the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STD) via intercourse, a recent New York Times article offers the important reminder that oral sex can spread infections, too.
The article cites studies that show young adults and teenagers engage in oral sex instead of intercourse to prevent pregnancy, preserve virginity and avoid risks, such as STDs. However, STDs like oral human papillomavirus (HPV) and pharyngeal gonorrhea (gonorrhea of the throat) can, in fact, be spread in this way.
“It is a somewhat common misconception that infection cannot be spread through oral sex,” says Dr. Thomas Klarquist, an internal medicine physician and board certified HIV specialist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “Certain STDs like chlamydia, syphilis and herpes can spread just as easily through oral sex as through intercourse.”
And, according to the American Sexual Health Association, it’s possible to have an STD in more than one area. The mouth or throat could become infected from giving oral sex while the penis, vagina, anus or rectum could become infected from receiving it.
Forty-eight percent of 15-19 year old women and 49 percent of 15-19 year old men have engaged in oral sex, according to one study.
“As with any type of sexual behavior, the appropriate precautions should be taken to help ensure safer sex,” says Dr. Klarquist. “The term ‘safe sex’ is often thought of in reference to the possibility of pregnancy, but it really encompasses protecting the body from harm during or as a result of sexual activity, including the transmission of STDs.”
Dr. Klarquist encourages getting tested for STDs every year and talking with any sexual partners about STDs. If you think you might have an STD or may have been exposed through a partner, visit your physician to get tested.
“Keeping an open, honest dialogue with your sexual partners and with your physicians is key to maintaining good sexual health,” adds Dr. Klarquist.
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