While it is important that people can identify however they want, when it comes to STD risk, behavior is what is most important.
New research shows that women who have sex with women (WSW), including young adults, may be at increased risk for some STDs. STDs can spread through skin-to-skin genital contact, mouth-to-genital contact, and finger-to-genital contact. Sharing sex toys or practicing oral sex can increase a person’s chances of contracting STDs without putting into place certain safety precautions!
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV have all been reported among WSW. These infections can spread during oral sex, especially if one partner has any open sores or is menstruating.
Below are some other common infections to look out for:
- Genital Herpes: There are 2 types of strains, HSV-1 and HSV-2, which can cause genital herpes infection. One study found that women who only had sex with female partners were at higher risk for HSV-1 infection than women who had sex with male and female partners because of increased oral-to-genital contact.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV): HPV transmission can happen from skin-to-skin contact during sex. There are many different types of HPV—some of these types can cause genital warts or cervical cancer.
- · Bacterial Vaginosis (BV): BV is a bacterial infection that occurs when the healthy bacteria in your vagina get out of balance. Higher rates of BV have been found in women who exclusively have sex with women compared to women who have sex with men and women. Sexual behaviors that transfer vaginal fluid or vaginal bacteria might increase the likelihood of transmitting BV.
How can I stay safe during sex?
Luckily, there are steps that people can take to help reduce their risk of getting one of these STDs. These include:
- Getting tested: Staying up-to-date on STD screenings can help you feel in control of your health and lower your risk of spreading STDs. If you test positive for a STD, there are usually treatment options for you and/or your partner.
- Talk to your doctor: It’s good to be honest with your healthcare provider about your sexual behaviors so they can help you stay healthy. By law, providers have to keep your sexual health information private (even if you are under 18). Find a clinic in your area.
- Use a condom: Using a condom over penetrative sex toys can help reduce the spread of STDs like HIV, chlamydia, and BV. Find FREE condoms here
- Use a dental dam: Dental dams add a protective barrier during oral sex, which lowers the risk of spreading STDs
- Get a pap smear: If you are sexually active, it is recommended that you get regular Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer.
- Get the HPV Vaccine: If you have not already, complete the HPV vaccine series to protect yourself now and in the future!
To learn more, get tested for STDs, or find a method of birth control, visit a clinic near you!
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This blog was reposted from TeenSource.org, a project of Essential Access Health. TeenSource.org is an online hub for comprehensive and teen-friendly information on birth control, STDs, relationships and teen’s rights to accessing sensitive services. The site features youth-developed blogs and videos, a clinic finder, a Condom Access Project and links to TeenSource social media where youth can stay updated on relevant sexual and reproductive health information and news.
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