Lesbians, Bisexual Women and Safe Sex
What does it mean to be a lesbian?
A lesbian is a woman who is sexually attracted to another woman or who has sex with another woman, even if it is only sometimes. A lesbian is currently only having sex with a woman, even if she has had sex with men in the past.
Why should lesbians think about safe sex?
Generally lesbians are at low risk of HIV infection and unplanned pregnancy. However sex between women is not always safe, and lesbians are just as vulnerable to certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as women who have sex with men. Therefore women need to know the risks and how to protect themselves.
What is ‘safe sex’ for lesbians?
‘Safe sex’ is any activity through which you are at no risk of becoming infected with HIV or an STD. 'Safer sex' refers to sex in which the risk of becoming infected with HIV or an STD is minimised. Lesbians can protect themselves from HIV and many STDs by ensuring that infected fluids, such as blood or vaginal fluids, do not enter their body during sex. Precautions that can be taken include not sharing sex toys, or if doing so, using a new condom for each partner. Certain sexual activities are also considered to be lower risk, for example hugging, touching, massage and masturbation.
However, STDs such as herpes and crabs can be passed on through skin contact alone. The only way for two women to be sure that they are not at risk during sex is if both have been fully tested, and have not had sexual contact with any other women or men since.
What are the HIV risks for lesbians?
HIV is in the blood, breast milk, vaginal fluid or semen of someone with HIV, so you are at risk if you get any of these fluids inside your body. The risks of sexually transmitting HIV between women are low. Very few women are known to have passed HIV on to other women sexually. However, some lesbian sexual practices do carry a risk of HIV transmission and precautions need to be taken to protect against infection.
What other STD risks are there for lesbians?
Although we have seen that lesbian and bisexual women are at low risk of getting HIV from sex with another woman, many other STDs - such as herpes or thrush - are just as common for lesbians as for women who have sex with men.