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Are lesbians at risk?

Just how much risk is there if you're a gay woman?

The HIV virus can be found in vaginal fluids, blood and breast milk. If your partner is HIV+ and any of these fluids gets into your body through your mouth, vagina, anus or cuts in the skin, there is risk of you becoming infected.

If you have cuts in your mouth or bleeding gums, you might have an open doorway for the virus to enter. Wait at least half an hour after brushing or flossing your teeth.

If you put your fingers inside your partner you may be at risk. You can't always see or feel cuts on your hands, so it's best to play it safe by wearing latex gloves. Even in Japan it's possible to buy a box of these at the pharmacy.

Be especially careful if your partner is menstruating. Menstrual blood can contain enough HIV to be infectious.

Oral sex won't present a problem if you take precautions. In the United States, it's fairly easy to buy dental dams, a small square piece of latex used by dentists to cover the mouth. Here in Japan, they aren't generally for sale. But you can make one easily enough by cutting off the tip of an unlubricated condom and then cutting through one edge before unrolling it. Another, even easier, solution is to use plastic wrap. Remember to only lick one side of the wrap or latex barrier and throw it away properly when you're done.

Sex toys are safe as long as you don't share them, or simply put on a new condom before the next person uses the dildo or vibrator.

How do I know if my partner has HIV?

You won't know, unless she tells you. A person infected with HIV often doesn't show any signs of infection, and she may not even know she's infected. You can't tell if someone has HIV just by looking at her. You have to talk about it, and ask questions about each other's past partners - both men and women, drug use, and so on. Honesty is the best policy, but if you want to be safe, protect yourself by using the simple precautions listed above and consider having an HIV test at your local hokenjo. It's free and anonymous.

For more information, call the HIV Center Hotline at (03)5259-0256 (Tokyo) or (0720)43-4105 (Osaka) Saturdays 1:00 - 6:00p.m.

And if you want to order dental dams or other safe-sex items, take a look at Condomania's Home Page

This page found at: http://www.japanetwork.org/students/lesinfo.html

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