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Menstrual Blood

Nov 20, 1996


I am wondering what the risk is of contracting HIV from a woman who is menstruating. Several weeks ago I had sex, using a latex condom, with a high-risk prostitute who was menstruating lightly. After 10 days I came down with flu like symptoms. Is there a possibility that this is Acute Viral Syndrome? What are the chances? I have never had an STD and used the condom correctly. In addition, the condom was equipped with NonOxynol9. Does this increase my protection?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi.Thank you for your question.

If a woman is menstruating while engaging in vaginal intercourse, the risk of infection is increased. This is because the man is now being exposed to BOTH vaginal secretions AND menstrual blood, both of which contain high concentrations of HIV. The more of these body fluids the partner is exposed to, the greater the risk of transmission there would be.

However, in your case, your risk of infection would still be low. This is because you were using a latex condom. Condoms used consistently and correctly do significantly reduce the risk of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's). Nonoxynol-9 is a spermicidal ingredient that has been found to increase the risk of HIV because it can cause irritation. Some people are also allergic to Nonoxynol-9.

Since your risk of infection was low (because you were using condoms), that would mean there would be less of a chance that your symptoms would be due to Acute Viral Syndrome. But if you are concerned about your risk of infection, only testing at 6 months after your last possible exposure to the virus can tell you if you became infected or not. Since the symptoms related to Acute Viral Syndrome (flu-like symptoms) look exactly like the symptoms of other illnesses (including the flu itself), and because not all persons get Acute Viral Syndrome, these symptoms cannot be used to determine if a person became infected with HIV or not. Only HIV testing can determine that. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide 24/7). Rick Sowadsky MSPH CDS

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