Man with HIV may have infected partner with a kiss
But bleeding gums, not saliva, was transmission route
July 10, 1997
Web posted at: 8:59 p.m. EDT (0059 GMT)
ATLANTA (CNN) -- An HIV-positive man may have infected his
female sexual partner through kissing, but the federal
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the virus was
apparently transmitted through blood in the man's saliva, not
the saliva itself.
Both the man and his partner had gum disease and other oral
problems that contributed to transmission of HIV, the CDC
says, cautioning that the case does not indicate that kissing
is a risky behavior for transmitting HIV.
"We have not observed any instances of HIV transmission
through regular kissing," said Dr. Scott Holmberg of the CDC.
"Exposure to saliva uncontaminated with blood is a highly
unlikely vehicle for HIV transmission."
Researchers believe that's due to a number of factors,
including low levels of HIV in saliva as well as a protein
present in saliva that keeps it from infecting white blood
While kissing has not been absolutely confirmed as the cause
of transmission in the case cited Thursday, CDC officials
concede it is the likely cause because other possible modes
of transmission have been ruled out.
Despite this case, the CDC says it has no plans to change its
advice regarding kissing and HIV transmission. The agency
maintains there is no risk through casual contact and closed
mouth or "social kissing."
Because of the potential for contact with blood during
"French" or open-mouthed kissing, the CDC continues to
recommend against engaging in this activity with an infected
In this case, the man reported his gums frequently bled after
he brushed and flossed his teeth. He also reported that he
and his partner usually engaged in sex and deep kissing at
night, after he brushed his teeth.
The CDC says his partner also had gum disease, which weakened
and thinned her gums, making it easier for the virus to get
into her bloodstream.
The couple has been enrolled in a study of discordant couples
(where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is negative)
since 1992. As part of the study, they were periodically
given questionnaires and tested for HIV. She tested positive
for the first time in July 1995.
The couple reported using a latex condom during each act of
intercourse and said they didn't have anal sex. During the
time between her last negative test and her first positive
one, the woman reported she didn't have exposure to any known
The strains of HIV in both the man and woman were genetically
similar, indicating that HIV was transmitted from one to the
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