The Risks of Unsafe Oral Sex

Dear Dr. Patti:

I just had unsafe oral sex with a man I don't know very well at all. He said he was tested two years ago and since then he's been very careful, but I can't rely on that. Without scaring me, what am I now at risk for?



Dear L: Well, the good news is that he was responsible enough to have been tested at least once, two years ago, before jumping in the hay with you. The bad news is that, despite your best intentions, you have put yourself at risk for a range of sexually transmitted diseases, not the least of which might be HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. New data suggest that early testing is essential, as interventions such as protease inhibitor cocktails do stem the tide of replication of the virus within your immune system. So, if that's a worry, get yourself to a nearby anonymous testing site (usually run by a local or state health department) and learn your HIV status. You may have to wait three to six months from the incident(s) of unsafe sex before your antibodies will show up in that form of HIV testing. It's totally anonymous. Therefore, if you have become infected with the virus, you will not have to suffer the consequences of an insurance or other company using that information against you. As for your lover, he needs to do the same. There are other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that abound: Chlamydia, HPV (genital warts), syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, even simple vaginitis. These conditions may need immediate medical treatment. Progression rates of these diseases are staggering; march yourself into a gynecologist's office, STD clinic or Planned Parenthood to get checked for those as soon as possible. As with all diseases, treatment is better done sooner than later. Now, as for your delicate emotional self, your first step is forgiveness: of you and then him. Know that even wise, informed humans make mistakes and take chances. Chances are that with a single exposure (especially if he was not infected with any STDs), this was a gift, showing you the wisdom of practicing safer sex and making sure that it doesn't happen again. Check out Websites on STDs and HIV, such as Planned Parenthood, to learn more about your options. Finally, get those condoms out, now!


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