Background/introduction Women who have sex with women (WSW) are at risk of sexual ill-health, yet health professionals are ill-informed regarding the range of sexual health issues affecting these women. This ignorance may compound misconceptions among WSW regarding their risk status and the services available to them. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), abnormal cervical cytology, and unplanned pregnancy are conditions which are crucially exacerbated by barriers to engagement with health care.
Aim(s)/objectives To review the recent literature regarding access to sexual health care among WSW, and discuss some of the indicators of sexual ill-health adversely impacted by barriers to such engagement.
Methods Relevant databases (MEDLINE, Embase) were searched using MeSH terms related to sexual health, engagement with health serves, and WSW.
Results This review demonstrates that WSW experience several barriers to care, including the heteronormative expectations of health professionals. Studies suggest the prevalence of STIs among WSW is comparable to heterosexual women, while the use of barrier protection is limited. Screening uptake for cervical cancer among WSW remains poor. In addition, sexual minority, sexually active young women are more likely to experience an unplanned pregnancy than their heterosexual peers.
Discussion/conclusion The findings with regards to STI risk and unplanned pregnancy highlight the need for targeted interventions to address sexual risk taking behaviour among WSW. Further research should be conducted to examine the effectiveness of such interventions. Furthermore, greater understanding of the sexual health of WSW is urgently required among clinicians to improve care and engagement with healthcare among this population of women.
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