Lesbian and bisexual women in small cities--at risk for HIV? HIV Prevention Community Collaborative.
Objectives.Women who have sex with women are a relatively hidden group that has been overlooked in most AIDS research and prevention efforts, primarily because the efficiency of HIV transmission between female partners is believed to be low. Although data are scant, it is commonly assumed that members of this population are not at high risk for HIV infection. However, a recent study of lesbian and bisexual women living in the San Francisco Bay area reported a relatively high seroprevalence rate and has raised additional questions about this group's HIV risk. The present study, the first to focus on lesbian and bisexual women living outside major AIDS epicenters, provides additional evidence. It describes risk factors for HIV transmission among lesbian and bisexual women living in small cities in four geographic regions of the United States.Methods.On three consecutive evenings in 1992, members of the research team distributed anonymous structured written surveys to women patrons as they entered gay bars in each of 16 small cities.Results.Almost 17% of bisexual respondents and 0.5% of lesbians reported having had unprotected vaginal or anal sex with a male during the two months prior to the survey. Almost 10 percent of bisexual women and 8.8% of lesbians in the sample reported a history of injection drug use. Among those women surveyed who said they had been tested, 1.4% reported they were infected with HIV.Conclusions.Self-identified sexual orientation was highly consistent with recent sexual behavior. HIV risk related to sexual behavior was concentrated among self-identified bisexual women. The prevalence of injection drug use was substantial among both bisexual and lesbians. Developers of HIV risk behavior programs should take the prevalence of these risk behaviors into consideration in the design of effective HIV prevention interventions tailored to the needs of this hidden population.
Norman, AD; Perry, MJ; Stevenson, LY; Kelly, JA; Roffman, RA
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