Danny Pintauro, who discussed his HIV positive status with media mogul Oprah Winfrey and later with Raven-Symoné and Candice Cameron Bure on the talk show the View, has revealed that he became HIV positive via oral sex. This statement from Pintauro has lead to criticism of Pintauro within the gay community (see Ken Schneck’s article ‘The Problematic Case of Danny Pintauro’ or read through any of the comments section on sites carrying the story). This kind of reaction is exactly the kind of reaction that shuts down the HIV prevention conversation and limits education.
When we place a standard on who can speak and how you can ask question; when we say unless you’re at this level of educated don’t talk about HIV or ask questions, we instill a culture of shame on people who want to converse, be educated and learn about HIV infection and prevention. We engaged in the same shame tactic, subtly, that we were criticizing Symoné and Bure of engaging in.
We should proved some grace to those who may not ask their questions perfectly or speak with a level of polish that may not be gleaming. They are at least willing to have a conversation. We should welcome that willingness because a conversation, any conversation, helps to continue and broaden prevention, infection and treatment education.
When someone speaks incorrect or incomplete information or asks a question in a way that may not be politically polite, we should provide constructive correction, not criticism. A person who may want to learn more; a person who may want to speak about their own HIV status to show others that it gets better and they are not alone, will feel a lot less inclined to ask and converse if all they will get is criticism and critique from the community.
As for Pintauro’s statement on HIV infection through oral sex:
Oral sex is much less risky than anal or vaginal sex – but HIV still can enter through open cuts and sores, or possibly by infecting the lining of the mouth. There are some documented cases of people getting HIV through their mouth. — San Francisco AIDS Foundation
Even though oral sex carries a lower risk of HIV transmission than other sexual activities, the risk is not zero. It is difficult to measure the exact risk because people who practice oral sex may also practice other forms of sex during the same encounter. When transmission occurs, it may be the result of oral sex or other, riskier sexual activities, such as anal or vaginal sex. — The Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Doctors and researchers can’t be sure how many people have been infected with HIV through oral sex. Some think hardly anybody has been infected with HIV from oral sex, but other people think that as many as 3% …Oral sex has been shown to be a less risky activity, but it is not risk free. Again, it depends on the viral load of the person with HIV and the dental health of the person performing oral sex. — National AIDS Manual
HIV prevention is a conversation, not a competition. It’s about getting accurate information out to people. When we place political politeness and polish in speaking style as the most important part of that conversation, we are placing these skills above prevention, and prevention is our ultimate goal.
A great place to start a conversation on your own is with your health professional or with an HIV/AIDS organization.