The Centers for Disease Control this week released a report on a Houston case of HIV transmitted through lesbian sex. Rare, but true.
According to the report (which did not name any names), one of the partners, a 46-year-old woman, had been fighting an HIV infection since 2008, but stopped her treatment two years later. She started a six-month monogamous relationship with a woman in her forties who was previously healthy, and a regular blood donor in Houston. The woman had donated blood in March 2012, and tried again a few months later, but was denied for testing positive for HIV. In July that year, she was officially diagnosed with the disease.
"One of the problems here is that the original positive person decided to stop her treatment, which gave her more ability to be transmissive," Kathy Barton of the Houston Health and Human Services Department said.
The information was not made public until now. The CDC report went into detail about the couple's sex life and how the transmission may have been possible:
"The couple reported routinely having unprotected sex (using no barrier precautions) oral and vaginal contact using insertive sex toys that were shared between them but were not shared with any other persons. They described their sexual contact as at times rough to the point of inducing bleeding in either woman. They also reported having unprotected sexual contact during the menses of either partner. The recently infected woman reported that her partner was her only sexual contact during the 6 months before her serconversion."
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"Everyone in the infectious disease arena had known that it was possible for this to occur," Barton said. "It took 34 years to find a case we could be very conclusive about. It's an important finding, but it is still a very unusual occurrence.
In fact, in Houston, men having sex with other men is one of the primary ways the disease is passed. In the latest HIV report put together by the city, there was a total of 6,129 woman infected with HIV, which more than doubled for men with 16,551 cases.
When one partner is HIV positive and the other is not, they are called a discordant couple by disease investigators. The CDC, in its report, said that HIV-discordant couples should get counseling regarding safe-sex practices.
"I don't think this [report] represents a monstrous threat to the lesbian community," Barton said. "Lesbians should pay attention if they are in a relationship and with an HIV-infected partner."