Someone told me that you can get HIV from “deep kissing,” and now I’m freaking out! Could I have gotten AIDS from making out with my boyfriend?
Great question. First, it’s awesome that you’re thinking about HIV prevention! Rates of a variety of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are currently on the rise among teens, and it’s important to be aware of how to protect yourself and your partner. Second, I have good news: You can relax. It is incredibly unlikely that you could have gotten HIV from kissing someone, even if it was “deep.”
To understand why, let’s do a quick refresher on HIV/AIDS.
HIV (or the human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks your body’s immune system (which works to keep you healthy and infection- and disease-free). If left untreated, HIV will make it super easy for bacteria, viruses, fungi, and certain cancers to attack your body, and you get very sick, very easily. At that point, you are considered to have AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Today, HIV is manageable but NOT curable. This means that once HIV enters your body, it will be there for the rest of your life. However, if identified and properly treated, people with HIV can live long and happy lives.
You can get HIV from coming into contact with certain bodily fluids: blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk. This list does NOT include saliva, so kissing is generally not a problem. The only time that someone can get HIV from kissing is if your partner is HIV positive AND bleeding in or near their mouth. So, avoid kissing people who have bleeding gums or open sores. Otherwise, you can make out as much as you want!
However, you should know that it is possible to transmit HIV via sex.
If you and your partner are having or thinking about having sex of any kind (including oral or anal), be sure to use a condom or dental dam. This will also help protect you from other STIs, like gonorrhea and chlamydia. You both should also get tested for STIs, including HIV, before having sex for the first time. Even if you think it’s unlikely that either of you has an infection, you’ll both feel a lot better having proof—especially since it seems like you’re already concerned about STIs.
If you live in the NYC area, you and your boyfriend can get tested confidentially at no cost to you at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. Just call (212) 423-3000 to make an appointment! You can also try Planned Parenthoods and community health centers for free or cheap STI testing.
A version of this post was originally published in November, 2016.