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Correlates of a lifetime history of sexually transmitted infections among women who have sex with women in Toronto, Canada: results from a cross-sectional internet-based survey


Objectives Structural drivers of sexually transmitted infections (STI) among women who have sex with women (WSW) have been underexplored. The study objective was to understand sociodemographic, individual, structural, and sexual health factors associated with a lifetime history of STI among WSW.

Methods A cross-sectional survey was conducted in 2012 to engage a peer-driven recruitment sample of WSW in Toronto, Canada. Data were collected among a convenience sample of 466 WSW using an online structured interview.

Results Approximately one-fifth (n=89, 19.1%) of participants reported an STI diagnosis history. Participants identifying as bisexual were more likely, and lesbians less likely, to report an STI history than those identifying as queer. In multivariate logistic regression analyses adjusted for sociodemographic variables, STI history was associated with intrapersonal (STI knowledge, HIV/STI risk perceptions), interpersonal (male sex partners in past 3 months, number of lifetime sexual partners) and structural (sexual stigma, history of forced sex, belief healthcare provider (HCP) uncomfortable addressing sexual orientation) factors as well as sexual healthcare uptake (ever had STI/HIV test, STI/Pap test in past 2 years). Gender-non-conforming participants were less likely to report an STI history.

Conclusions This research is among the first to examine intrapersonal, interpersonal and structural factors correlated with an STI history among WSW. Findings highlight the importance of STI prevention strategies for WSW to be tailored to sexual identity, with particular attention to bisexual women's needs. Interventions should connect to sexual healthcare, address sexual stigma and train HCP to better meet the needs of WSW.

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