Shared sex toys likely caused rare case of lesbian HIV transmission

BY Advocate.com Editors

January 31 2003 1:00 AM ET

A rare case of sexual transmission of HIV between women is reported in the February 1 edition of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, with the infection likely caused by the sharing of sex toys. The report focuses on a 20-year-old woman from Philadelphia who tested positive for HIV antibodies less than six months after a prior negative HIV test. The woman had been in a monogamous relationship for two years with an HIV-positive bisexual woman.

Interviews with the women ruled out possible infection through drug use or other sex partners. Also, because physicians and dentists deemed the newly infected woman to have good oral hygiene, the researchers discounted the possibility of HIV transmission through oral sex. The women did note that they regularly shared sex toys and occasionally used them so vigorously as to draw blood. Genetic tests showed that the women were infected with nearly genetically identical strains of the virus, including having six specific genetic mutations that make the virus resistant to several anti-HIV medications, proving that the virus had passed from one partner to the other, likely through the shared sex toys.

The investigators note that this is the "first reported case of female-to-female sexual transmission of HIV supported by identification of similar HIV genotypes in the source patient and the recipient." They conclude that while female-to-female HIV transmissions are extremely rare, there is a small chance that one HIV-positive partner can pass along the virus to the other, and as such, women in HIV-discordant relationships should be advised to practice safer sex.

Tags: Health

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