A common mistake that lesbians are not at risk for STIs is false. In fact lesbian women are just as likely to pick up STIs as hetrosexual women. Infections can spread many different ways, including:

  • Mucosa contact
  • Menstrual blood
  • The exchange of vaginal fluids
  • Skin-to-skin contact
  • Sharing sex toys

Lesbian STI statistics show that STI rates are three times higher among bisexual women than women who have sex exclusively with other women.

Here are five common STIs that can affect lesbians.

While there’s no such thing as a 'lesbian STI,' there are some infections that gay women are more vulnerable to.

Some of the most common STIs that affect gay women include:

1. Chlamydia

Chlamydia is probably the most common sexually transmitted infection that lesbian women can get. 

This STI is caused by bacteria, and is spread through oral, vaginal or anal sex.

If left untreated, chlamydia can damage a woman’s reproductive organs, including her fallopian tubes, uterus and ovaries.

Chlamydia is known as the 'silent infection,' as the infection's symptoms are mild, so it’s easily spread to others without the infected person knowing it.

The most common symptoms of chlamydia include:

  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Pain in the lower back
  • Painful sexual contact
  • Bleeding in between periods

Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics before the symptoms above even develop. A trip to your local GUM clinic will help. 

2. Bacterial Vaginosis (or BV)

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is more common in lesbian and bisexual women than in other women. The reason for this is unknown. BV often occurs in both members of lesbian couples.

The vagina normally has a balance of mostly 'good' bacteria and fewer 'harmful' bacteria. BV develops when the balance changes. With BV, there is an increase in harmful bacteria and a decrease in good bacteria.

Sometimes BV causes no symptoms. But over half of women with BV have vaginal itching or discharge with a fishy odor. BV can be treated with antibiotics.

3. HPV (Human Papillomavirus)

The human papillomavirus (HPV) can indeed be transmitted though lesbian sexual activity. In general, the virus is transmitted through sexual skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. No penetration is needed to contract the virus.

Lesbians can contract the virus from an infected partner through:
  • genital to genital contact
  • touching the genitals of a partner, and then your own
  • sharing sex toys without first disinfecting them

There is no 100% guarantee that you will be able to prevent HPV.

4. Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is an STI caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). Most genital herpes is caused by HSV-2. HSV-1 can cause genital herpes. But it more commonly causes infections of the mouth and lips, called 'fever blisters' or 'cold sores'. You can spread oral herpes to the genitals through oral sex.

Most women have few or no symptoms from a genital herpes infection. When symptoms do occur, they usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the vagina or bum. The blisters break, leaving tender sores that may take up to four weeks to heal. Another outbreak can appear weeks or months later. But it almost always is less severe and shorter than the first outbreak.

Although the infection can stay in the body forever, the outbreaks tend to become less severe and occur less often over time. You can pass genital herpes to someone else even when you have no symptoms.

There is no cure for herpes. Drugs can be used to shorten and prevent outbreaks or reduce the spread of the virus to others.

5. Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis or 'Trich'. It is caused by a parasite that can be passed from one person to another during sexual contact. It can also be picked up from contact with damp, moist objects such as towels or wet clothing. Trich is spread through sexual contact with an infected person. 

Symptoms of this STI include:

  • Discomfort during urination and sex
  • Gray, yellow or green vaginal discharge with a strong odor
  • Itching and irritation in the vaginal area

Trich can be treated with antibiotics.


Prevention and Testing

All lesbian women should go for regular STI testing if you are sexually active, especially if you have a lot of sexual partners.

We recommend that you test just before you enter a relationship or soon after you've ended one. 

You can also reduce their risk of contracting an STI by:

Using a Dental Dam

Also known as the lesbian condoms, dental dam's are thin latex squares that cover the vagina during oral sex. Their purpose is to prevent the spread of STIs, and they come in a wide range of flavors.

We recommend using a dental dam during oral sex until both partners can be tested for STIs.

Washing Sex Toys

Lesbians who share sex toys should ensure that they clean them properly after each use – before their partner uses them.

Because sex toys can penetrate the body, lesbians are at greater risk of contracting certain STIs through the use of unsanitary toys.

While STIs aren’t as common among lesbians, they aren’t impossible to contract. Getting tested regularly and practicing safe sex with new partners can help minimize the risks for both lesbian and bisexual women.


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LAST UPDATED: 09/01/2017