Introduction Little is known about partner characteristics or rates of STIs among African American women who have sex with women (AAWSW).
Methods African American women aged ≥ 16 years attending a Health Department STD clinic were enrolled in this ongoing study if they reported sexual activity with a female partner during the preceding year. Participants completed a study questionnaire and were tested for curable (trichomoniasis, Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis) and non-curable (HSV-2, HIV) STIs.
Results Of 128 participants reporting female partners during the preceding year, 52% (67/128) also reported sex with men during the same interval (WSWM). WSW and WSWM did not differ with regards to age, lifetime number of female partners, or number of female partners during the preceding year. WSWM reported increased numbers of lifetime male partners compared to WSW ( p = 0.01). During the 30 days preceding enrollment, WSWM reported a median of 2 sexual partners (interquartile (IQR) range 0–4) while WSW reported a median of 1 sexual partner (IQR 0–2). WSWM were significantly more likely than WSW to report new or casual female partners within 30 days preceding enrollment (46% vs. 28%; p = 0.03) while WSW were more likely to report regular female partners (75% vs. 34%; p = 0.01). Additionally, 39% (26/67) of WSWM reported new or casual male partners within 30 days preceding enrollment. Although not statistically significant, diagnosis of all curable STIs (trichomoniasis, Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis) was more common among WSWM than WSW (30% vs. 16%; p = 0.07). Similarly, seropositivity for HIV and HSV-2 was more than twice as common among WSWM as WSW.
Conclusions AAWSW in this study were at high risk for STIs. AAWSWM, as a subgroup, may demonstrate heightened STI rates compared to exclusive AAWSW, perhaps influenced by partnership characteristics. Sexual health services for AAWSW should take into account partner gender heterogeneity when screening for STIs.
- African American Women