Volume 45, Issue 2
Pages 66 - 73

Invisible and at Risk: STDs Among Young Adult Sexual Minority Women in the United States


Sexual minority women are not adequately assessed by national STD surveillance systems, and research regarding STD burden in nationally representative samples of such women is rare. Moreover, few studies have assessed STD risk exclusively among young adult women.


Wave 4 (2007–2008) data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health on 7,296 females aged 24–32 were used to examine the relationship between sexual orientation and receipt of an STD diagnosis in the past year. Multivariate logistic regression analyses used two measures of sexual orientation: sexual identity and gender of sex partners.


Eighty percent of women considered themselves straight; 16% mostly straight; and 4% bisexual, mostly gay or gay. Eighty-five percent had had only male partners, while 7% had had one female partner, and 8% two or more female partners. In unadjusted models, women who identified themselves as mostly straight were more likely than straight women to have had an STD (odds ratio, 1.4); mostly gay or gay women were at lower risk (0.4). Women who had had two or more female partners had a higher STD risk than did women who had had only male partners (1.7). Adjusting for social and demographic characteristics did not substantially alter these results; however, the associations between sexual identity, gender of sex partners and STD diagnosis were eliminated after adjustment for sexual behaviors (e.g., having had anal sex).


Sexual identity, gender of sex partners and sexual behaviors should be taken into account in assessments of women's STD risk.

Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2013, 45(2):66–73, doi: 10.1363/4506613

Authors' Affiliations

Lisa L. Lindley is associate professor, Department of Global and Community Health, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. Katrina M. Walsemann is assistant professor, and Jarvis W. Carter, Jr., is a doctoral student, both in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia

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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