Sexual Minority Women and STDs

Few nationally representative studies have assessed the risk of STD transmission among sexual minority women. In a 2013 article in Perspectives, Lisa L. Lindley and colleagues helped fill the gap in such research using 2007‒2008 Add Health data. Their analysis of women aged 24‒32 went further than earlier studies in assessing sexual orientation by including a more nuanced measure of sexual identity, as well as the gender of sex partners. They found that STD risk was related to sexual identity and the gender and number of partners, but only in models that did not account for sexual risk behaviors. One association that persisted was that women who had ever had anal sex with a male were at increased risk of STD infection.

Lindley et al. highlight the need for health care providers to more fully consider young women’s sexual identity and behaviors when taking patients’ sexual histories and assessing STD risk. They pointedly note that sexual minority women have long “remained invisible to STD surveillance and prevention efforts in the United States,” and argue that it is time “to focus on the sexual health concerns of all women, not just of heterosexual women.”

Cover illustrations of Margaret Sanger © Matthew and Eve Levine