It’s a common misconception that sexually transmitted diseases only affect straight women. Although it’s less common, lesbian and bisexual women can also contract STDs.
Whether your partner is a man or a woman – or both – getting tested regularly is crucial when considering being intimate with a new partner.
Can Lesbian Couples Get STDs?
Yes. Lesbian couples can get STDs. It’s true that lesbian women are less likely to get some of the diseases that gay men and straight women contract, but you aren’t completely invulnerable to all STDs. In fact, there are some STDs that bisexual and lesbian women are more likely to catch.
It’s important to also remember that some women may not identify themselves as lesbians or bisexual and may have sexual encounters with men. If one partner is infected with a disease that is not usually spread through woman-to-woman contact, the disease can still spread.
STDs are typically spread through the exchange of bodily fluids. Women may exchange bodily fluids through oral sex or sharing sex toys.
Bisexual women are at a greater risk of contracting an STD because they have sex with both men and women.
Can Lesbians Get HIV?
Yes. Lesbians and bisexual women can get HIV. In fact, bisexual women are at greater risk of contracting HIV than women who exclusively have sex with other women.
Men’s sperm is a very efficient delivery vehicle for the disease.
Although HIV is still rare among lesbians, transmission can and does happen. The leading suspects in the spread of the disease through woman-to-woman contact are:
- Menstrual blood
- Sex practices that can cause bleeding
- Vaginal discharge when vaginitis is present
Without protection, it’s possible to contract HIV from your female partners or even spread it if you have HIV.
Lesbian Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Contrary to what you may have heard, there are quite a few lesbian STDs that you need to be aware of. From HIV to hepatitis and HPV, many of the most common sexually transmitted illnesses can be spread through woman-to-woman sex.
Some of the most common STDs lesbians should get tested for include:
Lesbians and bisexual woman are not immune to gonorrhea. Yes, this disease is spread through penetration, but a penis doesn’t have to be involved – you can spread it through the use of fingers and toys.
Gonorrhea can also be spread through oral sex. When this happens, the disease will affect your throat, urethra or the throat.
Many women don’t even realize that they have gonorrhea, as this disease rarely causes symptoms. If symptoms do appear, they usually include:
- Painful urination
- Yellow or yellowish-green vaginal discharge
Although rare in lesbians, chlamydia can still be spread through female-to-female sexual contact, especially if one partner also has sex with men.
Like gonorrhea, chlamydia can be spread through the use of toys, hands and fingers.
This disease can stick around for years and never present any symptoms. Those that do have symptoms may experience:
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Pain during urination or sex
- Irregular bleeding
If left untreated, chlamydia can cause infertility. The good news? This STD can be treated with antibiotics.
Bacterial vaginosis, or BV, occurs when the bacteria in the vagina becomes out of balance. BV is more common than you think, and unlike the other STDs we’ve talked about, this one actually produces symptoms.
Symptoms can include:
- Vaginal irritation
- Yellow/gray discharge
- Strange smell in the genital area
Douching is a common cause of BV, and a practice that many lesbians engage in.
A simple round of antibiotics is all that’s needed to get rid of this STD.
A very common STD, genital herpes causes painful sores around the mouth, genitals and anus. Contact with the sores can spread the disease, which means lesbians can transmit genital herpes through oral sex.
Genital herpes is an incurable condition and outbreaks are recurring.
Genital warts cause painless bumps in the areas around the genitals and the anus. Because this disease is spread by touch, women can easily transmit genital warts to their female partners.
PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)
PID is caused by a bacterial infection. Symptoms usually start appearing a few days after exposure to an infected partner, but can sometimes take up to a month to surface. Sometimes, PID can arise after abortion, childbirth or surgery.
This STD can cause:
- Vaginal discharge
Some women never experience symptoms. If left untreated, scar tissue can block the fallopian tubes and cause infertility.
Pubic Lice and Scabies
Pubic lice, or crabs, is spread by close, skin-to-skin contact with another person. It can also spread through contact with the person’s bed sheets or clothing.
Itching is the most common symptom of this disease, and you can often see the lice with your own eyes.
Scabies is similar to pubic lice, but involves an infestation of tiny mites. These mites burrow into the skin and cause itching. They also give off a strange smell.
Close contact can spread mites, and they can stay alive in fabric for several days.
Treatment for both scabies and pubic lice includes using a medicated lotion.
Trichomonas has been known to spread through woman-to-woman contact, and can cause smelly, frothy and itchy vaginal discharge.
This STD can be spread by sharing panties, but has also been shown to spread when women share a jacuzzi. Symptoms can appear 2-20 days after exposure.
Lesbian Safer Sex
Everyone – regardless of their sexual orientation – should practice safe sex.
Even if you only have sex with women, you truly never know who your partner has slept with.
How do you practice safer sex? Here are some tips:
Get Tested Often
The first and most important step you can take is to get tested. Knowing your status is important, especially if you’ve been sexually active with different partners and have not gotten tested in the past.
It’s also important to ensure that both you and new partners get tested before you become more intimate.