I hear about using barriers for safer oral sex, but I’m not sure what that means. Do I need to use them?
Barriers are when you use something between the mouth and the genitals to prevent the spread of disease during oral sex. The most common variant of this is using a condom for giving head. However, you can also use barriers for cunnilingus (oral sex on a clitoris, vulva or vagina) or analingus (oral sex on the anus or ass). Some good barriers are dental dams, split condoms, split gloves, or plastic kitchen wrap. Dental dams are pieces of (usually) latex squares invented to keep parts of the mouth dry while doing dental procedures. You would use a dental dam or a condom cut up the long side stretched over the area in question, being sure to keep track of which is the body side and which is the mouth side. You can cut a latex or nitrile medical or laboratory type glove up the long side as well. Most people I have talked to prefer to leave the thumb hole uncut. Plastic wrap has the advantage of being inexpensive and available in large sheets. You need to make sure not to use microwave wrap as the little holes to let the steam out will also let the germs in. I prefer plastic wrap because you can also play around with it and do light bondage or mummification play at the same time.
As for whether or not you need to use them, this is a decision only you and your partner can make, hopefully in consultation with your medical team. Our mouths, saliva in particular, are very good at killing microbes that do not belong, but they are not one hundred percent effective and you absolutely can spread germs and diseases this way. The CDC recommends using them every time you have oral sex to reduce the risk of getting an STD. Their factsheet on this is a little confusing and I think their alternative recommendation is a long term mutually monogamous relationship after STD testing, like it is for other kinds of sex. You can check out the CDC fact sheet for yourself – STD Risk and Oral Sex.