P126 Perceived Risk for STIs and Reproductive Cancers Among Lesbians in South Carolina

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Pre-Function Lobby & Grand Ballroom D2/E (M4) (Omni Hotel)
Lisa Lindley, MPH, DrPH, CHES and Heather M. Brandt, MSPH, PhD, Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC

Background: Limited information exists in popular lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media regarding STIs among lesbians.  Conversely, breast cancer has been labeled the “lesbian plague” in popular LGBT media.

Objectives: To determine perception of risk for STIs and reproductive cancers among lesbians in South Carolina.

Methods: A convenience sample of self-identified lesbians (n=203) were surveyed during two South Carolina LGBT Pride Festivals in 2009.  Univariate analyses were conducted and paired t-test compared lesbians’ perceived risk for STIs (e.g., bacterial vaginosis, Chlamydia, genital herpes, HIV, and HPV) and reproductive cancers (e.g., breast, cervical, and ovarian), and compared their perceived risk for these conditions to their perception of bisexual women’s and other lesbians’ risk.

Results: Twenty-two percent of lesbians ever had an STI, while 6% ever had a reproductive cancer.  When asked their risk for each condition, 23%-30% said they “did not know.”  Among those who assessed their risk, lesbians perceived they were at low to moderate risk (Range: 1.1 – 2.9) for each condition, significantly lower than their perceived risk of bisexual women (Range: 3.9 – 4.2) and other lesbians (Range: 3.1 – 4.0).  Lesbians perceived they were at significantly greater risk for reproductive cancers, especially breast cancer, than for STIs.  Health care providers and the Internet were identified as main sources for sexual health information.

Conclusions: Lesbians in South Carolina perceived they were at greater risk for reproductive cancers than STIs, despite having a greater lifetime prevalence of STIs. Additionally, SC lesbians perceived they were at lower risk for these conditions than bisexual women and other lesbians.  Many did not know their risk for these conditions.

Implications for Programs, Policy, and/or Research: Health care providers must discuss STIs and reproductive cancers with their lesbian patients and reputable health and popular LGBT media must educate lesbians about these conditions, particularly via the Internet.

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