Are lesbians or other women who have sex with women at risk for HIV?

Female-to-female transmission of HIV appears to be a rare occurrence. However, there are case reports of female-to-female transmission of HIV. The well-documented risk of female-to-male transmission of HIV shows that vaginal secretions and menstrual blood may contain the virus and that mucous membrane (e.g., oral, vaginal) exposure to these secretions has the potential to lead to HIV infection.

In order to reduce the risk of HIV transmission, women who have sex with women should do the following:

  • Avoid exposure of a mucous membrane, such as the mouth (especially non-intact tissue), to vaginal secretions and menstrual blood.
  • Use condoms consistently and correctly each and every time for sexual contact with men or when using sex toys. Sex toys should not be shared. No barrier methods for use during oral sex have been evaluated as effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, natural rubber latex sheets, dental dams, cut open condoms, or plastic wrap may offer some protection from contact with body fluids during oral sex and possibly reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
  • Know your own and your partner’s HIV status. This knowledge can help uninfected women begin and maintain behavioral changes that reduce the risk of becoming infected. For women who are found to be infected, it can assist in getting early treatment and avoiding infecting others.

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