A woman in Texas likely infected her female partner with HIV through sexual contact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.
The case offers the strongest evidence to date that HIV transmission between women, although rare, is possible.
"There were cases where it was suspected, but not all the pieces were there to say it so clearly as this one," says Patrick Sullivan, an epidemiologist at Emory University who wasn’t involved in the study.
The circumstances in this case were unique, a spokeswoman for the CDC tells Shots. The couple frequently had sexual contact without a barrier and exchanged blood through rough sex with toys.
The case is a good reminder that HIV can spread during all types of sexual interactions, Sullivan says.
"Anytime there’s intimate contact — even through the use of sex toys — prevention measures should be taken, especially when there’s a chance of blood contact," he says.
The HIV virus can be found in vaginal fluid and menstrual blood. But it’s been tough for researchers to determine the risk of infection between women. In many cases, other transmission routes, such as intravenous drug use and heterosexual intercourse, can’t be ruled out.
These other risk factors weren’t present in the current case, a CDC team wrotein the current issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Photo: An at-home HIV test shows a negative result. (Alex Alonso/Flicrk.com)