Volume 43, Issue 3
Pages 158 - 163

Bacterial STDs and Perceived Risk Among Sexual Minority Young Adults


Most sexual health interventions focus on heterosexual sexual risk behavior. Health practitioners face a lack of information about the sexual health of sexual minority young adults (aged 18–26).


Three indicators of sexual minority status (identity, behavior and romantic attractions) were assessed in 10,986 young adults who participated in Wave 3 of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (2001–2002). Logistic regression analyses examined associations between these indicators and individuals’ perceived risk for STDs and actual infection with STDs. Data from the 1,154 respondents who had current or recent bacterial STDs were investigated further to determine whether they had underestimated their risk.


Outcomes varied by sexual minority status indicator and by sex. Bisexual females had significantly higher odds of STDs than heterosexual females (odds ratios, 1.4), and females attracted to both sexes had significantly higher odds of STDs than females attracted only to males (1.8). In contrast, none of the sexual minority status indicators predicted STDs for males. Among respondents who had an STD, females who reported only same-sex sexual relationships were more likely to believe they were at very low risk for STDs than were females reporting only opposite-sex sexual relationships (17.2); homosexual females had a higher likelihood of this outcome than heterosexual females (19.7).


Health practitioners need to assist sexual minority young adults, particularly females, in under-standing their risk for STDs and in taking safer-sex precautions.

Authors' Affiliations

Christine E. Kaestle is assistant professor, Department of Human Development, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. Martha W. Waller is associate research scientist, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, Chapel Hill, NC.

The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Guttmacher Institute.

Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

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