Lesbians at Risk for HIV, GMHC Report Shows

New York, NY -- On Thursday, June 25, Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) released a report on the vulnerability of lesbians, bisexuals and other women who have sex with women (WSW) to HIV infection, a complicated public health issue that is perplexing to some and ignored by many.

The review of research found that while there are no documented cases of female-to-female HIV transmission, lesbians and bisexual women are still at risk of contracting HIV. Some homosexually active women also have sex with men or inject drugs.

One 2005 study described in the GMHC report, found that lesbians and bisexual women are more likely to inject drugs than heterosexual women. Another study found lesbian and bisexual women are less likely to seek health care than heterosexual women, a risk factor for receiving a late HIV diagnosis.

With more than 15 years of experience, the Lesbian AIDS Project (LAP) at GMHC knows firsthand that there are lesbians and WSW living with HIV/AIDS. GMHC researched the risks lesbians and WSW face as there were growing indications that some lesbians/WSW engage in high risk behaviors that place them at risk for HIV transmission. The objective of the report is not to debate that lesbians/WSW are at the same risk as their heterosexual counterparts, but to acknowledge that there is significant risk of HIV, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and additional health disparities for lesbians.

"These risks are exacerbated by racial disparities in health care access, as well as by homophobia, sexism, and stigma," said Marjorie J. Hill, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of GMHC. "We seek to clarify confusion regarding lesbians and WSW risk in order to create visibility for this marginalized subpopulation of women. Prevention and policy interventions must reach more deeply into communities of women and take into account the context of their lives."

The report underscores the range of risks that lesbians could face in contracting HIV which are directly related to experiences and behaviors, and not solely determined by the use of labels to identify an individual's sexuality and sexual identity.

LAP is part of the Women's Institute at GMHC. Click here to review the report.

The GMHC report connects to an article in the June issue of POZ Magazine entitled, "The L+ Word." The article focuses on lesbians living with HIV/AIDS, the Lesbian AIDS Project and safer sex tips to prevent woman-to-woman transmission of HIV. Click here to review the article.