HIV transmission from sharing saliva?

Originally Published: March 12, 1999 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 9, 2012
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Dear Alice,

I am a forty-one-year-old female who has been in a loving monogamous relationship for the past fourteen years. Recently, at a party held in my office in my honor, I was holding a lollipop in my hand that I had been sucking on when my male co-worker grabbed the pop and sucked on it. I was distracted and when he placed it back in my hand, I immediately placed it in my mouth before I had realized it was just in his mouth. My other friend said he had placed the whole lollipop in his mouth. Although he is a dear friend, he is a male slut and now I am worried about getting HIV. I could not possibly ask him if he has any diseases. We work together. What do you think? I appreciate your response.

Signed,
Worried and I didn't even have sex!

Dear Worried and I didn't even have sex!,

You were more likely to catch a cold or flu from sharing that lollipop — reason enough for your colleague to ask before he licks. The chance of HIV transmission via the events you described ranges from minuscule to no chance at all. In the article you cited discusses two people who share saliva through kissing. One of the kissers was HIV+ with bleeding gums; the kisser who contracted HIV had inflamed mucous membranes of the gums. It is unclear whether or not these factors even caused the HIV transmission in this case. In fact, there have been no confirmed cases of HIV transmission as a result of saliva swapping alone.

When it comes to peace of mind where HIV and other STI contraction is concerned, biology and data don't always add up to the comfort you crave. If this describes you, a negative HIV test at least three months after the lollipop lick may be the only way to ease your mind. Columbia students can obtain a free and confidential HIV test through GHAP.

Alice