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Lesbian sex
Jul 30, 1997

I am a lesbian and I met a woman I like. She is HIV positive and I am not. But I still like her a lot. What are the precautions I should take sexually?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. The posts listed below address the issues of Lesbians with HIV, and safer sex among Lesbians. They should answer your concerns, including the concern of a positive person dating a negative person (also known as "Discordant Couples"). There was one study in Italy looking strictly at HIV-discordant Lesbian couples. According to that study, "Our data cannot exclude the female-to-female HIV transmission, but they indicate that it is a rare event in HIV-discordant lesbian couples."

The following are posts dealing with Lesbians with HIV, and Discordant Couples:

Dental dams

Lesbians and most recent stats on HIV risk

positive-negative relationship

When we are talking about safer sex and HIV transmission between women, it is important to remember the following:

A woman's blood (including menstrual blood), vaginal secretions, and breast milk all contain high concentrations of HIV, and all have been linked to transmission of the virus.

Saliva, tears, sweat, and urine can have the virus in them, but in such small concentrations that nobody has ever been infected through them. However, if any body fluid is visibly contaminated with blood, the risk of transmission exists.

The HIV virus must get into the bloodstream in order to infect you. If it doesn't get into the bloodstream, you will not get the infection. Blood (including menstrual blood), vaginal secretions, or breast milk must have direct access to your bloodstream in order to infect you. Activities between women where this can happen include sharing sex toys, giving oral sex, and sharing needles (IV, tattoo etc.). HIV can also be transmitted from mother to child. HIV is NOT transmitted through any form of casual contact.

In summary, in order for infection to occur between women, 3 things must happen:

You must be exposed to her vaginal secretions, blood (including menstrual blood), or breast milk, AND

The virus must get directly into your bloodstream through some fresh cut, open sore, abrasion etc., AND

Transmission must go directly from 1 person to the other very quickly.....the virus does not survive more than a few minutes outside the body.

No matter what the circumstances are, if you think about these 3 criteria for transmission, you'll be able to determine whether you're at risk for HIV or not. But do remember that other sexually transmitted diseases (STD) can be transmitted easier than HIV, so what might be low risk for HIV may be high risk for other STD's.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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