Lesbian sexually transmitted infections

In this present age, there is a significant level of awareness being created on safe sexual practices and the risks of STDs in heterosexual relationships.

On the other hand, very little information is put out on the sexually transmitted infections obtainable in Lesbian relationships.  

This information gap stems mostly from the misconception that lesbians are not at risk of STIs. Unfortunately, this does not hold true as STI transmission is majority related to the sexual practices of individuals and not necessarily their sexuality.

Also, Bacteria vaginosis which is a major risk factor for STI in women is significantly more rampant in lesbians than in women in heterosexual relationships.  

Common STDs In the Lesbian Community 

1. Herpes Simplex Virus:

Herpes simplex virus [HVS] manifests as either oral herpes or genital herpes. Herpes Simplex Virus is caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2. 

Although the HSV-1 virus can cause genital herpes, it is typically associated with oral herpes. Oral herpes is characterized by cold sores around the mouth.

On the other hand, HSV-2 is associated with genital herpes which manifests as sores or blisters around the genital area.  

The mode of transmission of HSV allows for its transmission between lesbians partners. HSV is a highly contagious infection that only requires a contact for it to be transmitted across individuals. Its major site of transmission includes infected skin and mucosal surfaces of the body.

It can be spread through kissing, sexual activity, and direct contact with infected skin or mucous membranes.

In lesbians, contact such as genital-genital contact, oral-genital contact, sharing of sex toys, and touching of genitals with infected fingers can lead to the transfer of the Herpes Simplex virus between lesbian partners.  

Symptoms of HSV include:

  • Painful blisters on or around the mouth or genital area
  • Itchy vagina, burning or tingling sensation in the vaginal area
  • Scabs
  • Painful irrigation
  • Vaginal discharge. 

2. HPV

Human Papillomavirus is an STI that can cause genital warts. It plays a major role in the development of cervical cancer in women.  HPV can be transmitted between lesbians as it can be spread through contact.

Although, lesbians who have sex with only women are at a lower risk of contracting HPV compared to bisexual and heterosexual women.

In lesbians, HPV can be transferred via sharing of sex toys, oral sex, and skin-to-skin contact during sexual activities. 

There are several variants of HPV which are broadly categorized into high-risk and low-risk HPV variants. This categorization is with regards to their potential to develop into different types of cancers.

Usually, HPV  infection is asymptomatic, and most variants can be destroyed by the  Human Immune System. Because of its asymptomatic nature, women are encouraged to run routine checks for this infection, regardless of their sexuality.  

HPV vaccines can also be taken as a preventive measure for cancer. 

3. Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. The primary mode of contracting this type of infection is via heterosexual intercourse.

Trichomoniasis can be transmitted from a lesbian who has had sexual activity with men in the past to her partner. It can be transferred through sharing of sex toys, mutual masturbation, and contact with the vaginal secretions of an infected partner.  

Symptoms of trichomoniasis include vaginal itching, vaginal discharge, and pain during sex or urination. In some women, trichomoniasis is asymptomatic.  However, even in such cases, it can cause severe complications.

4. Bacteria Vaginosis

This is not considered an STI because it is a result of bacterial imbalance in the vagina, and there is usually no need to treat a  partner after treatment of this infection.  

However, it is worthy of mention because it is a major risk factor for STIs in women. Bacteria vaginosis is the most prevalent sexual health condition in lesbians.

BV has a higher occurrence in lesbians compared to heterosexual women. Genital-to-genital contact between lesbians can lead to the transfer of bacteria between them, disrupting the balance of the vagina.  

Symptoms of BV include

  • Vaginal itching
  • Musty or fishy odor in the vagina
  • Vagina discharge
  • Discomfort.  

Sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis have an extremely low occurrence in lesbians that have no history of heterosexual intercourse.

This results in a low occurrence of this type of STI in lesbians.  Although there is a low risk of contracting HIV exclusively through lesbian sexual intercourse, it is possible, In the absence of other risk factors, HIV can be transferred among lesbian partners when they share insertive sex toys.

Also, if sex toys cause enough abrasion to draw blood from open sores around the genital area of an infected partner, it could be a means of HIV transmission.  

Preventive Measures Against Lesbian STDs

  • Lesbians should be enlightened on the available barrier protections for lesbian women. Information on where this barrier protection can be obtained, and how to handle and use them should be made available. Barrier protection methods like dental chains for oral sex, female condoms, or latex gloves can be used during lesbian sexual intercourse. These can help reduce the risk of STI transmission during sex.  
  • Safe sex toy use should be practiced by lesbians during sexual activity. Measures that can be taken to ensure safe sex toy use include; avoiding sharing insertive sex toys, using and changing condoms where necessary, and cleaning sex toys properly.
  • Lesbians should avoid close contact with the menstrual blood of partners as  STIs can be transmitted from fluids produced by the vagina or cervix. 
  • Smoking is a major risk factor for lesbian STIs. Smoking should be avoided as this can affect the bacteria flora of the vagina, making a partner prone to infection. 
  • Lesbians should be aware of the signs and symptoms to look out for in order to pay a prompt visit to the hospital when they notice unusual changes in vaginal health.  
  • Regular STD testing is essential for every sexually active person regardless of their sexuality. Some STDs can be transmitted and can cause serious health complications even if the host does not experience any symptoms.  Therefore, lesbians should be encouraged to go for regular tests to allow for prompt treatment, thereby preventing the spread of the infection.  
  • Practicing responsible sexual behavior. A low number of sexual partners lowers the risk of contracting an STD.  
  • Lesbians should be properly enlightened on the available vaccines for STDs like HPV, and HBV. Getting vaccinated helps prevent the transmission of some STDs.  
  • Open and honest conversations with prospective partners about sexual history and STD status should be encouraged as this can help reduce the risk of spreading STIs. 

Factors that can put lesbians at risk of STIs 

  • Smoking and substance abuse 
  • Bacterial vaginosis 
  • History of heterosexual relationships or sexual abuse 
  • Having multiple sexual partners 
  • Engaging in unprotected sex 
  • Sharing of sex toys 
  • History of STIs 

What Next?

It is recommended that you see a doctor immediately if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of STI.

Also, keep in mind that a number of STIs do not exhibit any symptoms, so it is recommended that you get tested regularly, especially if you have a history of heterosexual intercourse. 

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Last Updated on June 24, 2023 by Our Editorial Team