Lesbians are just as likely as heterosexual women to get sexually transmitted diseases such as hepatitis and genital herpes, Australian researchers said on Tuesday.

Women who have sex with other women were thought to have a small chance of acquiring sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but a study by scientists from the Sexual Health Unit in Alice Springs, Australia, showed their risk is just as high as other women.

“We demonstrated a higher prevalence of bacterial vaginosis (vaginal disease), Hepatitis C and HIV and Aids risk behaviours in women who have sex with other women compared with controls,” Dr Katherine Fethers said in a report in the journal, Sexually Transmitted Infections.

The researchers compared the medical histories and sexual behaviour of 1 408 lesbians and 1 423 heterosexual women who attended a sexual health clinic in Sydney between March 1991 and December 1998.

“All women with a history of sex with a woman were compared with women who denied ever having sex with another woman,” Fethers explained.

She and her colleagues said only seven percent of the women who had female sex partners said they had never had sex with a man. But they were more likely to have had a relationship with a gay or bisexual man and to have had more partners than the other women during their lifetime.

“These data argue strongly for increased measures to improve our understanding of the sexual health of women who have sex with women,” Fethers added.

She also called for more basic research into STIs, including the HIV virus that causes Aids, and targeted intervention strategies for women with female sex partners. – Reuters

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