Resources for Lesbian and Bisexual Women
Welcome to the STD Program’s Web site. It’s great that you are visiting, because lesbian and bisexual women can be at risk for STDs and these pages will direct you to further information.
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 (also known as
cunnilingus, “going down”, etc.)
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 (also known as,
“finger-fucking”, “fisting”, “fist-fucking”)
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 (also known as anilingus,
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 (tribadism or frottage) 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 toys or dildos)
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.org.
Links and Resources
Places lesbian and bisexual women can go for 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.
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
General STD Information
- American Social Health Association: General STD information and resources, with an emphasis on herpes and HPV), also has lots of condom information
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: General STD information
- Los Angeles County Office of Women’s Health (cervical cancer information and referrals to free & low-cost Pap tests in LA County)
- Los Angeles County STD Hotline: 1-800-758-0880 (toll free):
Offers STD information and eferrals to free and low-cost testing in LA County. Free condoms by mail (LA County residents only).
Note: The STD Hotline is available 24 hours/day, 7 days a week via an automated system for clinics and to leave a message for condoms. If you want to speak to a health educator, please call Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.
- California AIDS Hotline: 800-367-AIDS. Mon – Fri, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (until 9 p.m. Tuesdays). TDD: 888-225-AIDS.
- CDC INFO: 800-232-4636. STD and HIV information (listen to prompts) - 24 hrs.
- AIDS/HIV Nightline: 800-273-AIDS (2437). Mon - Sun / 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. Provides emotional support, information and referrals to people with concerns about HIV during the night when other agencies are closed.
- Drug Treatment and recovery resources in L.A. County: contact 1-800-564-6600 to be referred to resources near you.
- Abuse or sexual assault hotline: If you are experiencing sexual or relationship abuse or violence, or if you are afraid of your partner, call (213) 626-3393 or (310) 854-4621. 24 hours a day.
- Reproductive Health: Emergency Contraception: call 1-888-NOT-2-LATE or visit www.not-2-Late.com
STD Testing Resources
- InSPOTLA: Tell your sex partners about an STD or HIV through Internet ecards (anonymously if desired): Also has STD testing locator and additional resource links.
- Hepatitis B Foundation: Provides educational information about hepatitis B transmission, symptoms, diagnosis, prevention, management, new treatments, and clinical trials.
- Hepatitis Foundation International: Provides educational information about hepatitis including transmission, symptoms, vaccination, treatment, and management of chronic infections.
- Free and low cost hepatitis A and B vaccination in LA County
- CDC fact sheet on the HIV-STD connection.
- HIV L.A. Resource Directory: HIVLA.org is a quick, easy way to locate services available in Los Angeles County for people with HIV/AIDS. HIV L.A. is organized by category of service and by geographic region and contains over 1,300 listings.
Planned Parenthood Los Angeles: Low cost or free services including emergency contraception.
For information on free and low cost STD testing and treatment services in Los Angeles County, call the STD Hotline at 1-800-758-0880 or visit our STD Testing & Services section.