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It’s possible to contract HIV from swallowing semen, but the risk is very low.

Oral sex is considered a lower risk activity for HIV transmission. Though swallowing could increase the risk a tad, other factors impact just how risky it is.

The chance of contracting HIV from swallowing varies from one situation to the next.

Things, like the viral load of the person whose fluids are being swallowed or whether the person doing the swallowing is taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), affect the overall risk level.

How long the semen sits in the mouth before being swallowed affects your overall risk, too.

Let’s break down some common scenarios.

If you’re taking PrEP

If you’re taking PrEP as prescribed, you probably have nothing to worry about.

PrEP reduces the risk of contracting HIV from sex by 99 percent, and fellatio is already considered a lower risk pleasure. You’re cool.

If their viral load is undetectable

A person with an undetectable viral load can’t transmit HIV, so carry on.

If you used a condom or barrier

There shouldn’t be anything to swallow if you used a condom or barrier, so in this case, it’s all good.

If the condom ripped or slipped off enough to spill during an especially enthusiastic beej, the risk is still super low.

If it was only pre-cum and not ejaculate

Pre-cum does carry HIV, but the risk would be lower compared to swallowing semen due to the amount of liquid alone.

That said, the risk increases if the person giving the BJ has an ulcer or cut in their mouth or throat.

If you spit out as much as you could

The less contact the mucus membranes in the mouth have with semen containing HIV, the less chance it has to get into the bloodstream.

Spitting it out definitely reduces the risk, especially if you’re quick about it.

If it only happened once

Once is technically all it takes to contract HIV.

But, since the risk is low to begin with, the odds are in your favor if you don’t swallow on the regular without taking other precautions.

Obvs, the risk increases the more often you do something.

If you took PEP afterward

High-five!

Post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, is highly effective at reducing the risk of contracting HIV from sexual activity — if started within 72 hours of the possible exposure and taken consistently until finished.

How likely is this generally?

There’s no number to quantify the risk of swallowing seminal fluid.

Though swallowing does increase the risk of HIV some, fellatio is considered a lower risk activity overall.

You betcha!

If you swallowed seminal fluid, and you’re worried about HIV, head to the nearest clinic or emergency department ASAP for a PEP prescription.

PEP is a 28-day course of HIV medication given to people who are HIV-negative to prevent HIV after a possible exposure. It needs to be started within 72 hours.

Yes, but keep in mind that not everyone experiences symptoms early on. So, if you’re worried you were exposed, don’t wait for symptoms to appear before getting tested.

See a healthcare professional right away if you experience any of these:

  • fever
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • sore throat
  • muscle aches
  • night sweats
  • swollen lymph nodes

Depending on the type of test, the window period (time between exposure and when it can be detected on a test) is between 10 days and 3 months.

Until you pass the window period and get your results, it’s a good idea to avoid activities that can result in another exposure.

This means sticking with lower risk activities, like kissing and masturbation, and using barrier protection for any other sexual activity.

You’re also able to transmit the virus during this period, so it’s important to let any potential sexual partners know your status is up in the air.

Ideally, you’ll have the convo at a time and place that’s private and free of interruptions.

Keep it simple and to the point, and be willing to answer their questions honestly. Let them know what you’re doing about it, like taking PEP, and when you’re supposed to get your results.

Be prepared that they might not be comfortable with getting intimate until you know your status, and respect their decision.

If you’re gonna get busy, there are plenty of precautions you and your sexual partner(s) can take to reduce the risk of HIV.

Use condoms and other barrier methods

When used correctly, condoms and barrier methods significantly reduce the risk of HIV and other infections.

You can enhance protection — and pleasure, thankyouverymuch— by also using lube.

Lube helps with dryness and reduces friction, lowering the risk of skin tears that can allow the virus to enter the bloodstream.

It also lowers the chance of a condom breaking.

Stay on top of medications, including ART, PrEP, and PEP

There are a few medications available that can help prevent the transmission of HIV:

  • ART. A person living with HIV may take antiretroviral therapy, or ART, to help them stay healthy and prevent the transmission of HIV. Most people who take it as prescribed can lower their viral load to an undetectable level.
  • PrEP. This is a drug that someone who is HIV-negative can take to lower the risk of contracting HIV by as much as 99 percent.
  • PEP. This is a drug regimen that can help reduce the risk of HIV after a possible exposure when started within 72 hours.

Stay on top of oral hygiene

Having open sores, ulcers, or cuts in your mouth can let HIV into your bloodstream. Practice good oral hygiene and avoid vigorous brushing that can cause your gums to bleed.

If D’s on the menu, give your mouth a once-over before heading out, er, or down.

Skip oral or use a barrier if you have open sores or cuts.

Spit or swallow, don’t let it wallow

Catchy, right? It’s also great advice.

The less time mucus membranes are exposed to bodily fluids carrying HIV, the less chance the virus has to enter the bloodstream.

Get regularly tested for STIs

Having an STI can increase the risk of transmitting HIV.

It’s important for you and your partner(s) to get regular testing for STIs. Early detection and treatment of STIs can reduce the risk of complications.

Be aware of potential symptoms

It’s important for anyone who’s sexually active to know how to spot potential STI symptoms.

See a healthcare professional if you notice any of these:

  • unusual discharge from the anus, penis, or vagina
  • sores, bumps, or blisters on or around your genitals or anus
  • rash on or around your genitals or anus
  • genital itching
  • unusual vaginal bleeding, like bleeding after sex or between periods
  • changes in urination, like frequency, urgency, burning, or pain
Are certain activities higher risk?

Penis-in-anus sex has the highest risk for HIV transmission and contraction.

The risk is higher for the receptive partner (“bottom”) because the rectum’s lining is thin and can tear. This gives infected bodily fluids direct entry into the bloodstream.

Though not as risky, penis-in-vagina sex is also considered a higher risk activity.

It’s possible, but unlikely.

There are two main types of HIV:

  • HIV-1. This is the most common type. It accounts for around 99 percent of all infections in the United States.
  • HIV-2. This type is uncommon, less transmissible, and mostly concentrated in West Africa.

It’s possible, but treatment lowers the risk of transmitting HIV to the baby to less than 1 percent.

This involves the person with HIV taking ART through pregnancy and delivery, as well as giving the baby HIV medication for 4 to 6 weeks after birth.

There is!

Avoid sharing drug injection equipment, like needles and syringes, which can expose someone to blood infected with HIV.

Keep any alcohol intake or drug use in check. If needed, consider seeking help for substance use, which is linked to a higher risk of HIV and other STIs.

If you or your partner(s) have concerns or are in need of support, reach out to a doctor or other healthcare professional for help with:

  • HIV and other STI testing
  • treatment and prevention medications
  • concerning symptoms
  • referrals to counseling or mental health professionals
  • referrals to family planning clinics or professionals with experience in HIV

It’s possible to contract HIV from swallowing ejaculate or pre-cum, but the risk is pretty low.

Still, it’s a good idea to hit up a clinic for help with testing and, possibly, a prescription for PEP.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.