I am looking for the most recent information on HIV transmission in the
lesbian community. I have heard that there have been only a few
Hi. Thank you for your question.
Many times I've been asked how many HIV positive Lesbians there are. The
truth is, the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) does not keep a statistic as
to how many Lesbians and Bisexual women have HIV. The CDC now believes that
there is a small but significant number of Lesbians with HIV infection, and
that woman-to-woman transmission of HIV is possible. In fact, woman-to-woman
sexual transmission of HIV has already been reported in the medical
literature. The risk of HIV transmission between women is lower than HIV
transmission between men, and between men and women. We cannot say how often
sexual infection between women occurs, but the rate is probably relatively
The way we keep statistics can also lead to erroneous conclusions as to the
rate of HIV among Lesbians/bisexual women. If an HIV positive woman reported
having sex with many women, but had sex with just one man (even just one
time), for statistical purposes, she is considered heterosexual.
I've heard health professionals say that HIV isn't a problem in Lesbians,
since they have not seen any statistics on how many Lesbians are actually
infected. Part of the problem is that many healthcare professionals will
not ask an HIV positive woman if she has female sex partners. Many
healthcare professionals don't feel comfortable talking about Lesbian sex,
and many just assume that if a woman has HIV, she either got it from a man,
or through IV drug use. The truth is, if you don't ask the questions, you're
not going to find the answers. Because we do not keep statistics on how
many women with HIV are Lesbians (or bisexual), we cannot say how common HIV
is in the Lesbian community.
I'm starting to find more and more Lesbians and Bisexual women with HIV and
other STD's. From a recent medical study (and my own personal experience),
many Lesbians and Bisexual women with HIV became infected through IV drug
use. If a woman had multiple risk factors (unprotected sex with multiple
partners, drug use etc.), it's hard to know how she became infected. Was it
from her drug use? Was it from her female sex partners? Was it from her
male partners (if any)? Sometimes it's hard to tell which of her risk
factors she became infected by.
There is also a common myth in the Lesbian community that Lesbians and
Bisexual women don't get HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's).
The fact is they do. But again, we don't keep any statistics as to how many
Lesbians have HIV, or other STD's for that matter.
In summary, all we can say is that female-to-female sexual transmission is
possible. But we don't know how common (or rare) this is. Many
Lesbians/Bisexual women became infected through IV drug use. Some may have
become infected from male partners. Because we don't keep records of how
many Lesbians/Bisexual women have HIV, the true prevalence of HIV in this
community is unknown. HIV and STD's among Lesbians and Bisexual women is
real and does exist....it's just never discussed.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).