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Published On: Thu, Mar 13th, 2014

CDC reports rare woman-to-woman HIV transmission

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) today of a rare, but likely female-to-female transmission of HIV, which occurred in Houston, Texas in 2012.

HIV Image/CDC

HIV Image/CDC

The case was a 46-year-old woman who contracted the virus from a female partner during the 6-month monogamous relationship of the HIV-discordant couple (one negative, one positive), according to the report.

The woman who contracted the HIV was tested and the virus was virtually identical (98 percent) to that of her female partner who quit antiretroviral treatment two years prior.

The history of the the newly acquired HIV case is as follows: A history of heterosexual intercourse, but not in the 10 years before HIV infection, three female sexual partners in the preceding 5 years, no intravenous drug use,  tattoos, acupuncture, transfusions, transplants, or any other recognized HIV risk behavior.

Her female partner who was HIV positive since 2008.

The couple reported routinely having unprotected (using no barrier precautions) oral and vaginal contact and 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 seroconversion.

The editor of the report says report describes a case of HIV transmission likely by sexual contact between female partners. Past confirmation of HIV transmission during female-to-female sexual contact has been difficult because other risk factors almost always are present or cannot be ruled out. In this case, other risk factors for HIV transmission were not reported by the newly infected woman, and the viruses infecting the two women were virtually identical.

Woman-to-woman HIV transmission is not totally unheard of, at least two other cases are described in the report.

The potential for HIV transmission by female-to-female sexual contact includes unprotected exposure to vaginal or other body fluids and to blood from menstruation, or to exposure to blood from trauma during rough sex. Other potential exposures associated with HIV transmission in WSW that must be ruled out include injection drug use (IDU), heterosexual sex, tattooing, acupuncture, piercing, use of shared sex toys between the partners and other persons, exposure to body fluids of others, and receipt of transplants or transfusion.

The CDC says all persons at risk for HIV, including all discordant couples, should receive information regarding the prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted infections to prevent the HIV-negative partner from acquiring the infection. Furthermore, all persons identified as infected with HIV should be linked to and retained in medical care. Control of HIV infection with suppression of viral load can result in better health outcomes and a reduced chance of transmitting HIV to partners.

For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page and the Outbreak News This Week Radio Show page.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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