Lesbians at risk of STIs
Young same-sex attracted women are up to five times more likely to be diagnosed with a sexually transmissible infection (STI) than their heterosexual counterparts, researchers from La Trobe University have found.
The findings, which pertained to 15- to 18-year-olds, were published in a 2005 report titled Sexuality, Health and Well-Being of Same-Sex Attracted Young People in Australia.
In addition, NSW Health has reported that chlamydia infections among young women have risen at a rate of 20 percent each year since 1998, while gonorrhoea and syphilis infections are also on the rise.
ACON lesbian health officer Siri May said it was difficult to know what percentage of young women from the NSW Health study identified as same-sex attracted, as questions relating to sexual identity were not included in mainstream data collection.
May said there were numerous incorrect assumptions about risk and sexual practices for same-sex attracted women that created barriers to improving health outcomes.
“One of the reasons that young lesbians don’t think they are at risk is because their sex isn’t always seen as legitimate sex, and is instead in the realm of foreplay,” she said.
“Same-sex attracted women are at risk of getting STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and human papilloma virus.”
May told health professionals at a Health In Difference conference in Brisbane earlier this year that most STIs theoretically transmitted in sex between women do not have serious consequences unless they are left untreated.
Young same-sex attracted women have been asked to find a GP they are comfortable talking to about their sexual health, and to get regular testing.
May has advised young women to talk about sex with their partners and healthcare providers, and to be informed through ACON, a sexual health clinic, or a women’s health centre.
For more information about ACON’s Lesbian Health Project go to www.acon.org.au, call 9206 2007 or 1800 063 060. Alternatively, email [email protected] or [email protected]. For online information about safer sex, go to www.girl2girl.info.