Our expert says:
Gay, lesbian and bisexual expert
Hi to you Honey, welcome to the forum and thanks for an interesting post.
In terms of HIV infection, lesbians who only have sex with women are probably at the lowest risk of infection. However, many lesbians do have sex with men - power dynamics and social realities often compel lesbian women to submit to men, with rape being a reality for particularly black lesbians living in our township areas. Such rapes, also referred to as 'corrective' or 'curative' rape, are based on the assumption by some men that violent sex with a man can magically 'cure' a lesbian and make her straight. I highlight this element of violence because it is true that some lesbians are indeed HIV positive, and in all instances that I am aware of the infection occurred through semen. I am not aware of a single case of one woman infecting another but I stand to be corrected.
HIV is spread through body fluids, primarily semen and blood, from an infected person needing to enter the bloodstream of an uninfected person. Since there is no exchange of semen during lesbian sex, the focus needs to be primarily on avoiding your partner's blood from entering your bloodstream. While blood poses a high risk, vaginal fluids pose a relatively low risk. Note that it is a myth that menstrual blood cannot contain the virus - blood is blood.
Performing oral sex on a female partner is thus low risk provided she is not spotting (traces of menstrual blood) and that you don't have any sores, lesions or sores around or inside your mouth. If you're worried about finger play rinse your hands with a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar before you play - if the skin on your hands is broken the lemon juice or vinegar will burn and you'll know to cover your fingers with a condom or your hand with a latex glove.
If you're concerned about performing oral sex on your partner use a dental dam - a thin sheet of latex to cover her vulva. Dams are almost impossible to find commercially so use a sheet a kitchen cling-wrap (NOT the type made for micro-wave use as this contains tiny holes to allow steam to escape). If using toys cover them with a condom and whip the condom off before you use the condom on yourself. Also, never apply anything that has been in an anus (a finger or a toy) into a vagina without either washing it or applying clean, fresh condom in order to prevent vaginal or bladder infections. And play with plenty of lube - water-based if you use condoms.
Women can also pass STI's to each other but the above is a very basic beginners-guide to safer sex for lesbians. If you have more specific questions please post again - I encourage safer sex and HIV-related posts on our forum and safer sex for lesbians is seldom spoken of. For more detailed medical info please post to the gyneacologist here on Health24.
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