A nationwide study into the sexual health of women who have sex with women is being carried out by a group of Melbourne researchers — and they need your help.

Researchers from the Sexual Health Unit at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre (MSHC) want to speak to women over 18 who have had a same-sex sexual partner in the last 12 months.

The study aims to find how common bacterial vaginosis (BV) is among women with female sex partners and how it is related to sexual activity.

BV is a condition in which healthy vaginal bacteria are replaced with an overgrowth of ‘bad’ bacteria. Symptoms include abnormal vaginal discharges or odours. More than half of the women with BV do not show symptoms.

Studies have shown BV is more common among women who have sex with women, but it is unknown whether the infection is sexually transmitted.

MSHC lead researcher Dr Kath Fethers told Sydney Star Observer that while BV was a common vaginal infection, prevention and treatment were difficult while the cause remained unknown.

“We’re really trying to look at why some women catch BV and why some women don’t,” Fethers said.

“Women with BV basically lose their healthy vaginal flora. In a healthy vagina, you’ve got 95 percent healthy lactobacillus and those bacteria produce a whole range of products like lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide. They’re a really important way of protecting your body against STDs.”

A recent study showed about 12 percent of Australian women aged 16–25 have BV. Research into lesbian couples has found that if one woman has BV, about 90 percent of the time, so will her partner.

Participants will provide a self-collected vaginal swab sample every three months over two years and fill out an online survey. They will receive a $20 Coles Myer voucher every three months during the study.

info: Visit www.wowhealth.org.au or [email protected] or call 1800 082 820.

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