Cases of HIV transmission between women have long been suspected within the LGBT community, but these have never confirmed by health officials. Unfortunately, this has caused many women to think of sex with other women as an HIV-free sexual sphere. So many were undoubtedly shocked today when US health officials confirmed the first case of female-to-female HIV transmission.
According to the press release, issued by the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), a 46-year-old woman acquired HIV from her female partner in Texas between March 2012 and August 2012. The partner, a 43-year-old woman, tested positive for HIV in 2008, but she stopped receiving antiretroviral therapy two years later. Had she been on the HIV-suppressing drugs, the chance of transmission would have been greatly reduced. In addition, the CDC reports that the couple regularly failed to use safe-sex products such as dental dams, condoms and gloves during sex. But that information alone was not enough to verify the transmission event. Three additional factors made the confirmation possible.
The virus infecting the two women is nearly identical
First, the virus infecting the two women is nearly identical. Indeed, genetic sequencing revealed that three of the HIV virus' genes were a 98 percent match. Second, the woman who acquired the infection in 2012 did not participate in other risky behaviors, such as injection drugs use, acupuncture, and blood transfusions. Finally, CDC officials say that the virus could not have originated from a man, because the 46-year-old had not had heterosexual sex in 10 years (she also reported having sex solely with her female partner during the 6 months prior to the infection).
A handful of reports of female-to-female HIV transmission already exist, but officials have never been able to confirm these cases. They are considered anecdotal, largely because they involved a number of other risk factors. Moreover, researchers have never conducted a large, controlled study to look into the question of HIV-transmission between women. The reason for this discrepancy is widely attributed to the fact that queer women are considered "low-risk."
Lesbian and bisexual women do get STDs
That does not mean that women who only have sex with women shouldn't worry about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Lesbian and bisexual women do, in fact, get STDs from other women. Herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, and chlamydia can all be transmitted through oral sex. Digital penetration, genital-to-genital contact and the sharing of sex toys can also lead to the transmission of various STDs. And this doesn't even take into account the large percentage of bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection transmission that occurs between women, because neither are considered an STD.
But before today, no one had confirmed that the transmission of HIV between two women was possible. Today's announcement is significant, because it finally debunks the myth of the HIV-resistant gay woman.