Risk of HIV Transmission in Women Who Have Sex With Women

Although the risk of HIV transmission is much less among women who have sex with women compared to men who have sex with men or heterosexuals, but the risk does exist despite popular belief. Case reports indicate that mucous membrane, oral or vaginal, exposure to vaginal secretions and menstrual blood can lead to HIV infection.

CDC data reports that up until December 2004, a total of 246, 461 women were reported as HIV infected. Of these, 7,381 women were reported to have had sex with women. However, they had other risk factors, such as drug use, receipt of blood or blood products, or had sex with men. 534 women reported to have had sex only with women, but 91% had another risk factor, such as injection drug use. Up until today, there is no reported case of female to female transmission of HIV in absence of another risk factor. However, the absence of a confirmed case does not negate the possibility of transmission. Therefore, much awareness of preventative methods is necessary.

It is important that women know their own and their partner’s serostatus in order to make necessary behavioral changes to reduce the chance of becoming infected or infect others. Infected women can and should get early treatment in order to achieve better clinical outcome and to avoid infecting others. Because HIV transmission is possible through mucous membrane exposure to bodily fluids, condoms should be used when using sex toys. However, sex toys should not be shared. Natural rubber latex sheets, dental dams, condoms that have been cut and spread open, or plastic wrap may provide some protection against HIV transmission during oral sex.

Sexual identity does not protect or subject a person to HIV infection. It is the person’s behavior that places him or her at risk. Therefore, always take necessary preventative measures to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

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