Recently Dr. David Wright of Austin, TX., concluded that two of his lesbian patients were infected with HIV through sex with other women. The women had no other known risk factors. Although these are not the first known cases of HIV transmission through lesbian sex, they are the most widely publicized. In the past these cases have been dismissed as "an isolated incident" and the myth that lesbians are "safe" from AIDS was perpetuated. In addition many lesbians known to have HIV/AIDS often have multiple risk factors such as drug use or sex with men.
Therefore these women were immediately placed into the IV drug using category or the catch all category called "other." No one bothered to consider that they may have contracted HIV from their female partners. If a woman has multiple risk behaviors, no one tries to isolate the exact cause of infection. All sex, including woman to woman sex is a risk factor for HIV transmission. Safer sex minimizes that risk. Lesbians have had a difficult time trying to determine exactly what "safer-sex" is for us. We have had to do the best with what we have, dental dams, plastic wrap, gloves, etc., because no male dominated government agency believes that two women can actually have real sex without male involvement. The "lowest risk" category is a heterosexual male concept. A CDC official once said to us "Do lesbians even have sex?" Currently there is no category for lesbians. There is no box to check on the state forms for lesbians when they get tested at the Anonymous Test Sites. Lesbians are forced to check
the infamous "other" box which also includes everything else besides gay sex and injection drug sharing.
We believe that many women have contracted HIV from other women since the beginning of AIDS. Now that Dr. Wright has reported two cases perhaps the CDC will respond. Perhaps they will begin to study lesbian transmission of HIV. There is one CDC official who has shown an interest in looking at woman-to-woman transmission. He would like to hear from women who believe they were infected with HIV from another woman. You can get this information to him through community contacts: In Los Angeles, call Mary at (310) 8223-1198 or in New York, call Maxine at (212) 642-2570. For more information on Lesbians and AIDS, or a pamphlet on Lesbian Safer Sex, call the Being Alive Office.