Sexual activities other than intercourse carry risk of HIV, other STIs, study finds

Sexual activities other than intercourse carry some risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, according to a report from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published recently in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reuters reports.

An ACOG expert committee said that although many people engage in "noncoital" sexual activities -- such as oral sex, mutual masturbation and anal sex -- in an attempt to prevent pregnancy and reduce the risk of STIs, these sex acts still come with varying degrees of STI risk, and it is important for people to protect themselves.

Richard Guido and colleagues wrote in the report that "[n]oncoital sexual activity is not necessarily 'safe sex.'" Guido added, "Most people, including adolescents, are unlikely to use condoms during oral sex, which places them at risk for acquiring" an STI. He added, "This unlikelihood is partly because of a greater perceived safety compared with intercourse."

In terms of HIV transmission, ACOG said that receptive anal sex carries the highest risk, followed by receptive vaginal sex. There also have been HIV cases linked to oral sex, according to the report.

In the report, the panel advises physicians to ask both adult and teenage patients about all of their sexual activities and to counsel them on how to reduce the risk of STIs. Guido said that although this "is a sensitive issue to address for both patients and physicians, it's important to discuss frankly and without judgment so that we can help our patients fully protect themselves" against STIs. The panel also recommends "correct and consistent" condom use for all types of sexual activity, but particularly for vaginal and anal sex. Other ways to curb STI transmission include staying in a mutually monogamous relationship and getting tested for STIs before starting a new relationship, the panel said (Reuters, 9/2).

The study is available online.


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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