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Medical News

Doctors Report Female-to-Female HIV Transmission

February 19, 2003

Two U.S. researchers reported a case of HIV transmission through sexual contact between two females, based on genetic analysis. "I think that we touched the tip of an iceberg, in the sense that the general thought is that this doesn't happen at all," said Dr. Helena A. Kwakwa of the Jonathan Lax Treatment Center, an AIDS clinic in Philadelphia. "But I still think that although this is an uncommon event, it's something that we should all be aware of."

In "Female-to-Female Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus" in Clinical Infectious Diseases (2003;36:e40-e41), Kwakwa and her colleague Dr. M.W. Ghobrial report the case of a 20-year-old woman who had had sexual relations exclusively with an openly bisexual HIV-infected woman for the past two years.

The women's sexual relations involved oral contact and the sharing of sex toys. The patient reported that although she and her partner never had sex while menstruating, on occasion a small amount of bleeding occurred during sex. The investigators ruled out alternative explanations, confirming the patient had never shared toothbrushes or razors with her infected partner. She also had never injected drugs or received a blood transfusion; had no known exposure to body fluids; had never engaged in heterosexual sex or gotten a tattoo or body piercing; and had healthy teeth and gums.

The investigators determined that HIV genotypes in both women were a close match. They concluded that the patient may have become infected through sexual relations with her partner, probably resulting from drawing blood in conjunction with the shared use of sex toys. The researchers noted that although there have been several reported cases of female-to-female HIV transmission, none had previously been confirmed with genotype testing.

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Kwakwa said that women having sex with women could protect themselves from HIV through the barrier method -- using dental dams or plastic wrap -- and by avoiding sharing sexual toys "at least without washing with soap and water and bleach."

"The risk of transmission from women to women is very rare," said Ronald Johnson, associate executive director of Gay Men's Health Crisis. "But, as this study shows, it exists, and there certainly needs to be more information and research on women to women transmission."

Back to other CDC news for February 19, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Reuters Health
02.11.03; Alan Mozes



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 

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