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Can Lesbians get HIV/AIDS?

AIDS/HIV Risk Factors for Lesbians & Bisexual Women

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Injection Drug Use

According to the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at University of California, San Francisco, among injection drug users, women who have sex with other women have higher HIV rates than do women who have sex with men only. A study of female injection drug users in 14 US cities found that, compared to heterosexual women, women who had a female sex partner were more likely to share syringes, to exchange sex for drugs or money, to be homeless and to seroconvert.

Lesbians and Bisexual Women who have Sex with Men

Women who identify as lesbian or bisexual and have sex with men may be at higher risk for HIV than heterosexual women. Lesbians and bisexual women may have sex with gay or bisexual men and not use condoms.

  • A 1996 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that 81% of lesbians and bisexual women in San Francisco reported sex with men in the past three years.
  • Of those women, 39% reported unprotected vaginal sex.
  • 11% reported unprotected anal sex.

  • A study of lesbian and bisexual women in 16 small cities in the US found that 39% reported sex with gay/bisexual men.
  • 20% reported sex with an intravenous drug user.

    What is Lesbian Sex?

    Lesbians have different sexual practices, which have different levels of risk for HIV. Oral sex is thought to pose a relatively low risk. Acts such as sharing sex toys, hand play with long fingernails or cuts pose higher risk.

    Lesbian Youth and AIDS

    Young lesbians and bisexual women just coming out often experiment sexually with their gay male friends. Societal pressure and negative attitudes about homosexuality may increase young lesbians risk for contracting HIV. A study in San Francisco found that young lesbians engaged in high rates of alcohol and drug use, unprotected sex with men and sexual experimentation with young gay men as a way of coping with homophobia and societal pressures.

    What does it all mean?

    Just because there have not been adequate studies of lesbians and AIDS does not mean that lesbians are not at risk or HIV and AIDS. The fact is, homophobia and lesbian invisibility exist. Lesbians who have HIV may not be honest with their health care providers for fear of discrimination. My guess is, there are more lesbians with AIDS than we know about.

    HIV is preventable. Wouldn’t your rather be safe than sorry?

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