HIV prevalence among lesbians higher than expected

2013-01-15 16:57

HIV prevalence among women who have sex with women in Southern Africa is much higher than previously thought, a new study has revealed.

The study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) of South Africa and Columbia University in the US found that the prevalence was as high as 9.6% in lesbian, bisexual and other women who have sex with women.

This is in contrast with the perception that women who have sex with women are not at risk of contracting HIV because the risk of HIV transmission is very low or non-existent.

Dr Theodorus Sandfort of the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University who co-authored the study said: “There is a common misperception that lesbian women don’t have to worry about HIV infection but this data reminds us that this is not the case.”

While there were limitations to the study in that it could not test for the possibility of female-to-female transmission, the researchers were confident that they had established that self-identification as “lesbian” should not be interpreted as “no HIV” or “no risk”.

“Several of the women living with HIV had none of the traditional risk factors. Some women had no idea how they contracted the virus,” Sandfort said.

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