The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a rare case of female-to-female HIV transmission Thursday.
The case, reported in Texas in 2012, was that of a 46-year-old woman who was diagnosed with a strain on HIV that was virtually identical to that of her then-partner.
This is the first time the CDC has found a case of definitive female-to-female transmission. All other cases had risk factors that could not be ruled out.
The 46-year-old indicated that she had had sex with only that partner in the six months prior to diagnosis. She had no other HIV risk factors, like IV drug use or tattoos.
The 46-year-old's HIV strain is 98 percent genetically identical to her partner’s.
Her partner was diagnosed with HIV in 2008, but stopped anti-retroviral treatment in 2010.
Ending anti-retroviral treatment makes the viral load increase and the patient becomes more likely to pass on the virus.
“Sex between two women carries an extremely low risk of HIV transmission,” Paul Ward, Acting Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, told the Daily Mail. “In this case, when the HIV-positive partner stopped taking anti-HIV drugs in 2010, it is likely the amount of virus in her blood increased dramatically. Modern drug treatments don’t just keep people with HIV fit and well; they can also greatly reduce the risk of infection.”
Given the description of their sexual encounters, the transmission is even less surprising.
“They described their sexual contact as at times rough to the point of inducing bleeding in either woman,” the report says. “They also reported having unprotected sexual contact during the menses of either partner.”