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Oral Sex and HIV

                          Recent laboratory studies of mouth tissue suggest that unprotected oral sex does have the potential to transmit HIV but it is still less risky than other routes of transmission. The results of this study has helped researchers understand how HIV is transmitted and suggested that even oral tissue that is intact, without any tears or sores, can become infected with HIV under the right circumstances. After research it was found that the virus could infect and reproduce within cells called keratinocytes that line the surface of the mouth and that these cells can then transfer the infection to adjacent white blood cells. However, the level of infection in the mouth cells was much lower than that seen in white blood cells, approximately one-fourth to one-eighth lower. The researchers said that HIV is able to get into keratinocytes, but it reproduces less than it would in blood cells because saliva contains an HIV inhibitor. Under certain circumstances keratinocytes are able to release the virus to blood cells, which proliferate much faster than keratinocytes. Thus, the transfer of the infection from keratinocytes to white blood cells may provide a 'foothold' for HIV in the body.




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