Sexually transmitted infections as likely among lesbians as among heterosexual women

October 23, 2000

Sexually transmitted infections and risk behaviours in women who have sex with women (2000;76:345-9)

Women who have sex with women are just as much at risk of sexually transmitted infections as heterosexual women, finds a study in Sexually Transmitted Infections. And a high proportion have also had sex with men, the research shows.

Sexual history and behaviour data were analysed from the records of almost 3000 women, half of whom had sex with women. All the women had attended a public sexual health clinic in the central business district of Sydney between 1991 and 1998.

Bacterial vaginosis was significantly more common among lesbians, suggesting that it may have been sexually transmitted. Rates of genital warts and herpes were high among all women in the study. Women with female sex partners were also six times more likely to inject drugs and were significantly more likely to be infected with hepatitis C.

Only 7 per cent of women who had sex with women said they had never had sex with a man. They were three times as likely to have had sexual contact with a gay or bisexual man, and much more likely to have had more than 50 male sexual partners during their lifetime.

The authors conclude that the perception that women with female sex partners are at low risk of sexually transmitted infections is misplaced. They suggests that this group of women is involved in many high risk activities, and that sexual transmission of infections between women is possible.
Dr Katherine Fethers, Clinic 34 Sexual Health Unit, Alice Springs, Australia.
Tel: 0061 8 895 17 519
Fax: 0061 8 895 17 555

BMJ Specialty Journals

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