Can You Get HIV By Going Down?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Going down. Giving head. BJs. Rimming. Whatever term you use or method you enjoy, it’s important to stay safe while your head’s in the game.

So here’s the question: Can you get HIV from oral sex?

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Answer: A big ol’ maybe.

There’s definitely a chance of getting other STIs like hepatitis when you swap body fluids with another person. But the jury’s still out on whether you can get HIV from oral sex.

HIV is different from other STIs because contracting it requires fluid-to- bloodstream contact. That means it’s usually transferred through cuts or small tears in your nether regions. Maybe that sounds unlikely, but consider what friction could do to delicate, sensitive skin and tissue.

Here’s the lowdown on your risks while going down.

Which type of oral is the riskiest?

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TBH, your risk of getting HIV from any oral sex is super low. You’re much more likely to get it through anal adventures, through vaginal sex, or by sharing needles or syringes (please, just don’t!).

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, just that there’s little scientific evidence that it’s happened.

Can’t you just gimme the stats?

Not exactly. Most humans enjoy a spectrum of sex acts, so it’s tough to narrow down whether folks who are living with HIV contracted it during oral sex, anal sex, or other methods of transmission.

The deets on cunnilingus

Good news! There’s no evidence that you can get HIV from giving or getting mouth-to-vag sex.

Safety tips

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Cool, so the risk of HIV transmission from oral sex is next to nothing. But taking precautions reduces your risk even more.

If you’re HIV-positive…

Know your viral load. When your viral load is lower, your chance of passing HIV to your partner is lower too.

In a 2013 study, people with HIV reduced their risk of transmitting it to a partner by 96 percent with antiretroviral therapy (ART). Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in ART.

If your boo is HIV-positive…

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a pill that was created to help prevent HIV transmission. Taking it and using barrier methods greatly reduces your risk of getting HIV from a partner.

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If you’ve already done the deed without a condom or dental dam, you can still use post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent transmission. According to the HIV.gov, PEP only works if taken within 72 hours of sex. Call your doc stat if this is a good option for you.

Honesty is the best policy

The best way to protect yourself or your partner during oral sex is to keep it 100. Be clear about your HIV status, and ask your partner to be clear about theirs.

If you’re not sure about your status, get tested. In fact, it’s best for both you and your partner(s) to get STI tests on the reg.

PSA on dental hygiene: Make it a priority. Taking care of your teeth and gums could prevent bleeding gums, mouth sores, or other issues that increase your risk of getting HIV during oral sex.

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