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Division of HIV and STD Programs
 

   

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Division of HIV and STD Programs
600 S. Commonwealth Ave., 10th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90005
Phone:(213) 351-8000
Fax: (213) 738-0825
Email: DHSP@ph.lacounty.gov
Office Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. M-F
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Information for Lesbian and Bisexual Women

Lesbian and bisexual women can be at risk for STDs and these pages will direct you to further information and to resources specifically geared to assist with LGBT specific issues.

Do Lesbians need STD tests?
Yes! It is untrue that lesbians are not at risk of STDs or cervical cancer. In fact there is evidence that the rate of STDs among women who have sex with women (WSW) is at least as high as among heterosexual (straight) women. Many lesbians have had sex with men in the past and may be carrying STDs from previous male partners without being aware of it. Some women who identify as lesbian also have sex with men, putting them at risk for STDs. Even women who have only had female partners get STDs.

Like all sexual active people, it is important to get regular STD / HIV tests, especially if you have more than one partner, a new partner, or think that your partner may have other partners. It is also important to get a check up any time that you have symptoms of infection or if you find out that a sex partner has an STD.

Do Lesbians need Pap Tests?
Yes! Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), abnormal PAPs and cancer of the cervix (opening to the womb) have all been seen in women who report that they never had sex with a man. HPV, the viruses that can cause abnormal cells in the cervix, can be transmitted between women. Regular PAP tests are recommended for all lesbian and bisexual women.

What STDs can be transmitted between women?
Some STDs such as herpes, genital warts and HPV are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact between women. Other infections such as bacterial vaginosis (BV), trichomonas (trich), chlamydia and gonorrhea can pass between women in the vaginal fluid. There have also been reports of HIV and syphilis being transmitted between women. The risk of transmission is greater during menstruation (a period). The  types of sexual behavior that carry risk for STD transmission between women are listed below, along with ways to reduce the risk of transmission.

  • Oral-vaginal/vulval contact
    Putting the mouth on the vagina or vulva can spread STDs like herpes, syphilis and possibly gonorrhea. Using dental dams or plastic wrap can reduce the risk.

  • Digital-vaginal contact
    Putting fingers in the vagina can spread herpes, HPV and bacterial vaginosis, trichomonas, chlamydia, and gonorrhea if a woman is exposed to vaginal fluid from an infected partner. Using gloves or finger cots can reduce the risk.

  • Oral-anal contact area
    Contact between the mouth or tongue and anus (butt) can spread syphilis, herpes, hepatitis A and intestinal (gut) infections. The risk of infection is much higher in the partner who uses her mouth. Using dental dams or plastic wrap can reduce the risk.

  • Genital-genital & genital-body contact
    Contact can spread STDs such as HPV, pubic lice (crabs) and herpes. Wearing clothes and for herpes, avoiding contact if sores are present, reduces the risks.

  • Insertive sex (using sex toys)
    Sharing toys or dildos used in the vagina or anus can spread trichomonas, chlamydia and gonorrhea, herpes, HPV and possibly other STDs. The risk can be reduced by using condoms or by not sharing toys.

  • Piercing and sadomasochistic activities (SM)
    These activities can transmit HIV, hepatitis B and C if blood is shared. The risk can be reduced by the use of clean needles and avoiding activities that cause blood to be shared. Of these infections, vaccination is only available for hepatitis B.

  • HIV transmission between women
    You can find out more about HIV Risk for Lesbians, Bisexuals & Other Women Who Have Sex With Women at GMHC.

Links and Resources

Places lesbian and bisexual women can go for HIV/STD tests and Paps:

  • The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center in Hollywood
    Provides a broad array of services for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The Center offers free and low-cost health, mental health, HIV/AIDS medical care, HIV/STD testing, and prevention. It also has an alternative insemination service. The Center’s Audre Lorde Lesbian Health Program provides cancer screening services including Pap smears, breast exams, and mammograms for uninsured women who meet the financial eligibility criteria. Call (323) 993-7500 or e-mail healthservices@LAGayCenter.org for more information. The Center also offers legal, social, cultural, and educational services, with unique programs for seniors, families and youth, including a 24-bed transitional living program for homeless youth.

  • LA County STD clinics
    Offer free STD and HIV tests. Some of these clinics offer Paps to women getting STD testing. Call individual clinics to inquire.

  • Planned Parenthood
    Clinics and providers offer STD and PAP tests. If you also need birth control, you may be eligible for low or no-cost services under the Family PACT program.

  • Gay and Lesbian Medical Association
    Offers a tool to find a doctor who is GLBT friendly in your area.

  • The  Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Help Center
    The center provides free and confidential telephone and e-mail peer counseling, information and local resources. Their toll-free National Hotline number is 1-888-THE-GLNH (1-888-843-4564). Information is also available by e-mailing glnh@GLBTNationalHelpCenter.org. There is also a toll-free Youth Talkline, run by young people, for teens and young adults up to age 25. 1-800-246-PRIDE (1-800-246-7743) youth@GLBTNationalHelpCenter.org

HIV and STD Information


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