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Lesbian Safer Sex

Many lesbians, as well as bisexual women who have sex with other women, incorrectly assume that they are not at risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections. The growing number of HIV-positive lesbians proves that this thinking is a potentially dangerous myth.

It is important to remember that risks of sexually transmitted infections should be defined in terms of behaviors, not sexual orientation. While the risk of woman-to-woman sexual transmission of serious infections such as HIV is generally considered to be uncommon, women who have contracted HIV or other infections from sexual contact with men or women, or from intravenous drug use, are still at risk of transmitting that infection to other women if they participate in risky sexual behaviors.

Following these guidelines can help further reduce the risk of infection for lesbians and bisexual women, even if their risks are generally low.

The most important way to reduce your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection is to keep your partner's body fluids out of your body. The body fluids which lesbians should be most careful about are blood (including menstrual blood), vaginal fluids, and the discharges from sores caused by sexually transmitted infections.

There are two basic rules:

Keep your partner's body fluids out of your vagina, anus and mouth.

Don't touch sores that are caused by sexually transmitted infections.

Safer sex is anything one does to lower his or her risks of getting an sexually transmitted infection. It's about having more pleasure with less risk.

Safer sex also means protecting your partner, so return the favor.
Don't allow your body fluids to get into your partner's body.
Don't have sex if you have sores or other symptoms.
Get checked for sexually transmitted infections every year, and get the correct treatment if you become infected.

Lower-risk lesbian sex play includes:

Mutual Masturbation
Erotic Massage
Body Rubbing
Deep Kissing
Oral Sex with a barrier
Penetration with a barrier

Oral sex without barrier protection and sharing sex toys are potential methods of transmitting infection. Barrier methods, such as dental dams or cut-open latex condoms, can be used for oral sex to reduce the risk of infection. Clean and disinfect sex toys or cover with a fresh condom before each use. Using latex gloves, condoms, or finger cots for manual penetration can protect against transmission through cuts or hangnails on fingers.

Certain groups of women have a higher risk of sexually transmitted infections due to specific biological reasons:

Young women (between 15 and 24)
The cervix is not yet fully developed and may be less resistant to infection.
Older women (post-menopausal)
Vaginal dryness and thinning of the membrane may lead to small tears or abrasions that can allow infections to enter the bloodstream more easily.
Lesbian and bisexual women often face additional obstacles to staying healthy, such as dealing with discrimination and homophobia in the health care system.

A recent report "Lesbian Health: Current Assessment and Directions for the Future" from the Institute of Medicine, notes that fear of discrimination may keep lesbians from seeking routine medical care, and that the stress experienced due to homophobia and anti-gay discrimination can have a negative impact on lesbian health. The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association offers a free referral service to help patients find doctors who are sensitive to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health care needs on their Web site at http://www.glma.org.

Planned Parenthood health centers nationwide provide high quality, affordable reproductive health care and sexual health information to more than five million women, men, and teens. Planned Parenthood welcomes everyone—regardless of race, age, sexuality, disability, or income. We believe that respect and value for diversity in all aspects of our organization are essential to its well being.

Based on these beliefs, and reflecting the diverse communities within which we operate, the mission of Planned Parenthood is:
to provide comprehensive reproductive and complementary health care services in settings that preserve and protect the essential privacy and rights of each individual
to advocate for public policies that guarantee these rights and ensure access to such services
to provide educational programs that enhance understanding of the individual and societal implications of human sexuality
to promote research and the advancement of technology in reproductive health care and encourage understanding of their inherent bioethical, behavioral, and social implications.


For the Planned Parenthood center nearest you, call 800/230-PLAN.

Additional Resources

Lesbian Safer Sex

Gay and Lesbian Medical Association
459 Fulton St., Suite 107
San Francisco, CA 94102

National AIDS hotline
800/344-7432 (Spanish)

The National Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Organization

National Lesbian and Gay Health Association
1407 S Street NW
Washington DC, 20009

Safer Sex Institute

Our Bodies, Ourselves
Boston Women's Health Book Collective, 1998.

The Lesbian Health Book
Edited by Jocelyn White, MD, and Marissa C. Martinez, Seattle Press, 1997.







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