Can I still get HIV from intercourse without ejaculation?

HIV is a virus spread through body fluids. It is commonly transmitted by unprotected sexual intercourse between individuals and the sharing of needles among drug users. Once transmitted, HIV attacks the immune system, eventually weakening the body.

A question most often asked is if a person is at risk of contracting HIV when having unprotected sex without ejaculation. The answer is yes.

The following are the two scenarios of unprotected heterosexual vaginal sexual intercourse:

1. HIV-positive male with HIV-negative female

A man’s penis still discharges fluids prior to ejaculation inside a woman’s vagina. This secretion is known as pre-ejaculatory fluid and its purpose is to neutralise the acidic residue of the urine in the urethra to protect the incoming passage of sperm. This fluid may carry HIV.

2. HIV-positive female with HIV-negative male

Generally, the risk of HIV transmission from female to male is lesser than the HIV transmission from male to female.

The risk of transmitting HIV from HIV-positive males to HIV-negative females is between seven to eight cases per 10,000 cases of unprotected vaginal intercourse.

The number decreases by half as the risk of transmitting HIV from HIV-positive females to HIV-negative males is four cases per 10,000 cases of unprotected sexual intercourse.

The results can be attributed to the contact surface of males and females during sexual intercourse. For males, the contact surface is the skin that surrounds the penis. Skin is an organ made up of layers of dead cells thus, it provides protection from the external environment, leaving only the urethral opening as a possible route of infection (especially in circumcised penises).

Contrary to males, the contact surface in females is the lining of the vaginal wall. It is made up of mucous membranes. Unlike skin, mucous membranes are moist from the emission of fluids and have a relatively thin surface layer, making them more susceptible to infection by HIV.

Furthermore, HIV-positive females can transmit the virus through vaginal fluids that can enter the male’s penis via cuts, skin breakage or even ulcers on or around the surface of the penis.

However, the risk of heterosexual vaginal intercourse is lower than heterosexual anal intercourse and homosexual anal intercourse.

World Condom Day

The use of condoms is highly advised to mitigate the risk of transmitting sexually-transmitted infections such as HIV. Condoms act as a barrier that separates the two surfaces that would otherwise come in contact with each other during sexual intercourse.

In Malaysia, despite religious prohibition and laws, fornication is still a problem as evident from the cases of baby dumping, children born out of wedlock and sexually-transmitted diseases (STD).

World Condom Day promotes safe sex to reduce the risks of contracting STDs, and the incidence of teen-pregnancy.

This article first appeared in hellodoktor.com and was reviewed by Panel Perubatan Hello Doktor. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.