Doctors Warn Against Using Saliva As Sexual Lubricant To Prevent New HIV Infections

Medical experts say using saliva as a lubricant during sexual intercourse increases the risk of the human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis, and herpes infection.

They also noted that sexually transmitted infections like candidiasis, chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhoea can also be transmitted through the practice.

The physicians urged couples to indulge in foreplay to get lubricated naturally or get a lubricant that is medically certified before sexual intercourse is initiated.

Speaking with PUNCH Healthwise, a General Practitioner in Minna, Niger State, Dr. Akinkoye Akinpelu, said an HIV-infected man might have a bleeding gum and once the saliva with traces of blood is used to lubricate, the woman will become infected.

“You know that HIV is a disease transmitted through blood contact. A man or woman might have a bleeding gum and probably any of the partners already has a cut due to friction during intercourse. By the time they lubricate with the saliva, the bacteria or virus present gets transmitted.

According to the World Health Organisation, HIV is an infection that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the white blood cells, called CD4 cells.

The WHO noted that HIV destroys these CD4 cells, thereby weakening a person’s immunity against infections, such as tuberculosis and some cancers.

“HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having killed almost 33 million people so far. The virus can be transmitted through contact with infected blood, semen, or vaginal fluids.

“Within a few weeks of HIV infection, flu-like symptoms, such as fever, sore throat, and fatigue can occur. Then the disease is usually asymptomatic, until it progresses to AIDS,” the WHO stated.

Dr. Akinpelu, who is the Medical Director of Top Medical Centre, said the private part of the woman is a very good environment for bacteria growth, adding that a slight bruise is an easy pathway for any infection to penetrate the body.

The physician also warned against indulging in oral sex, noting that it is another avenue to get STI infections.

“People are aware that HIV can be transmitted through sex, but still go on to have unprotected sex. Oral sex should also be discouraged, except you and your partner have been screened and certified free of all forms of venereal diseases.

“But if you have to do it outside your partner, who you are not sure if he has other partners, then you are exposing yourself to unnecessary risk of getting infected with any of the deadly diseases.

In an article published in Health – an online health journal – a gynaecologist, Felice Gersh stressed that any STI in the throat or mouth can be transmitted to the genitals through saliva.

“Any STI in the throat or mouth can be transmitted to the genitals through saliva. In other words, if your partner has an active herpes lesion, for example, using their spit to make things slick could leave you with genital herpes.

Gersh, who is also an author, said the use of saliva as a lubricant, happens more than people might think—and it’s the most common way genital herpes is contracted.

“Even if you don’t see a cold sore on or around their mouth, the virus can still be transmissible.

“Herpes can present with blisters or sores, but it can also present asymptomatically.

“Herpes isn’t the only oral STI you could contract; gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV, syphilis, and trichomoniasis can also all be transmitted to the genitals through saliva. And like herpes, these infections may not have any symptoms,” Gersh said.

Continuing, she said: “The bacteria in saliva are very different from the bacteria in your vagina. Saliva also contains digestive enzymes that break down food.

“When you introduce these bacteria and enzymes into your vagina, the result can upset your vaginal microbiome and leave you susceptible to developing a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis.

“Both of these annoying yet curable infections develop when the balance of yeast and bacteria that naturally exist in the vagina is thrown off.

“Using saliva as lube provides a perfect storm to alter the vaginal ecosystem, enough to trigger one of these infections.”

The gynaecologist said even if the risk of contracting an STI or vaginal infection is removed, saliva is still not advised.

“It has no innate qualities that would make it a good lubricant,” she added.

“It doesn’t have the slippery consistency, it evaporates and dries more quickly, and further, it’s irritating.”

“Personal lubricants, on the other hand, are designed to create slickness that’s very similar to the lubrication your own body produces.

“Lubricity creates a gliding feel, which helps to decrease friction. Friction can cause small nicks or tears in the vagina, which besides being painful, might allow harmful microbes into the body—something you definitely don’t want.”

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