Sex Advice

Dear Dr. Locker: Is rimming safe? Could I get sick from bacteria, or get AIDS from rimming?

Answer from Dr. Locker

Analingus, also called "rimming" or oral-anal sex, can put you at risk for bacteria, parasites, and viruses. But it can also be done safely with little or no risk.

The anus may contain fecal matter which could have bacteria like salmonella, or parasites such as Crypto (cryptosporidiosis) and Giardia. These would give you diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and cramping. Medication can get rid of them.

With proper hygiene or by using protection, it is entirely possible to have oral-anal contact without getting fecal bacteria or parasites. Not everyone has these things in his or her feces. Also, normally, there are only small amount of feces in the anal canal. You can prevent all or most fecal matter from being present on the external anus, which would greatly reduce or eliminate those risks. Showering or bathing with warm soapy water should rid the external anus of fecal matter.

If the recipient has a sexually transmitted infection on his or her skin near or on the anus -- such as genital warts (HPV), herpes, syphilis -- then it can get transmitted to the givers' mouth, regardless of hygiene. It is more difficult for chlamydia and gonorrhea to be transmitted from the anus, but it is possible. Hepatitis may also be transmitted from oral-anal contact, so consider getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be transmitted during sex when infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions enters someone else's blood stream. So these fluids would have to be present in the anus to put the giver at risk. Also, the giver would need to have an inlet to his or her bloodstream, such as a small cut in his or her mouth. If the recipient has open sores in or on his or her anus, then avoid oral-anal contact. Or if the giver has a cut or sore in his or her mouth, then consider that risk. The risks are similar for hepatitis B or C, which are also transmitted from blood. Like HIV, Hepatitis C has no vaccine. (Incidentally, there is no HIV in feces.)

If you know that your partner does not have HIV, genital warts (HPV), herpes, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, or Hepatitis, then rimming could be safer... if you avoid fecal matter. Shower or bathe just before rimming. Also, to be safer, choose to use a dental dam or saran wrap over the anus before rimming.


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