From Bukkake "face orgies" to mere sticky hands or stray spunky spurts, OutUK's Adrian Gillan asks if safe sex literature has a blind spot concerning the potential risk of HIV transmission through getting semen in eyes. Valid question or undue alarm?
Your eye and inner eyelids are protected by the conjunctiva, a mucous membrane. It is generally accepted that HIV can, theoretically at least, pass through mucous membranes. Getting a guy's semen - a bodily fluid which, like blood, can support high HIV viral loads - into one's eyes is certainly possible in a wide variety of sexual contexts.
Semen in eye (SIE) needn't just occur through overt ejaculation over another person's face, although many of us will have asked for this or done it to others at some time in our sex lives, and some of us may even enjoy it as a well-established fetish - look at the number of "Bukkake" porn sites out there on the web. SIE could also occur unintentionally via surprise stray spurting spunk or through the relatively everyday process of getting someone else's cum or pre-cum onto your hand and then said hand into your eyes. And - whatever the route - once semen gets in eye: scratch, scratch, scratch!

So without being alarmist - that is certainly not the point of this feature - it seems a reasonable question, at least, to ask as to whether SIE transmission is indeed possible and, if so, how high or low the risk is. Yet we read relatively little about this topic in safe sex literature and the few medics I've asked in STI clinics over the years often seem vague or non-committal.

Initial doubts are hardly assuaged by Googling "semen HIV eye" and surfing a wide range of advice, from the typically tight-lipped to these thoughts from Rick Sowadsky, a state STI specialist from Nevada USA, responding to a man who's convinced he could only have become positive through getting his positive partner's cum in his eyes: "Getting semen in the eye is certainly a possibility of transmission. Blood getting into the eyes can also be risky, which is why healthcare workers (like dentists) wear eye goggles when doing procedures that have a likelihood of this happening."

He continues: "The linings of the eyes are made of mucous membranes. HIV can easily pass through mucous membranes. When something gets into the eye, the first thing that people naturally do is rub their eyes. This can easily cause microscopic cuts and abrasions in the mucous membranes lining the eyes. Since semen contains high concentrations of HIV, and since there is a distinct possibility of HIV getting into the bloodstream through the eyes (especially if you rub them), it would not be surprising for HIV to be transmitted in this way."

Sowadsky goes on to advise: "Be careful not to get semen or cum in your eyes as this is potentially risky. If you are aware of the risk, you can try to stay out of the line of fire. If you get semen in your eyes, they will sting. Don't rub them. Try rinsing them with warm water."

"Ocular transmission is something I have heard of before," says Paul Bates of Crusaid. "However it is not something we would have a policy on - or a necessary view on which we could advance. Speak to the National AIDS Trust."

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