Low Use of Screenings by Sexual Minority Young Women

Mostly heterosexual/bisexual women less likely to have a Pap test and have higher risk of STI

FRIDAY, June 17 (HealthDay News) -- Routine reproductive health screenings, including Papanicolaou (Pap) smears and sexually transmitted infection (STI) tests, are underutilized by sexual minority adolescent and young adult women, according to a study published online June 7 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Brittany M. Charlton, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues assessed sexual orientation-related differences in utilization of Pap and STI/human papillomavirus tests in adolescent and young adult women. Data on sexual orientation, reproductive health care utilization, and abnormal results were collected from 4,224 women, aged 17 to 25 years, who responded to the 2005 wave questionnaire of the Growing Up Today Study.

The investigators found that, after adjusting for sociodemographics and sexual history, women who were mostly heterosexual/bisexual were 30 percent less likely to have a Pap test within the last year and almost 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with an STI, compared to women who were completely heterosexual. Lesbians were significantly less likely to have a Pap test during their lifetime, or within the last year (odds ratio, 0.13 and 0.25, respectively), compared with completely heterosexual women.

"Our study demonstrates that sexual minority adolescent and young adult women underutilize routine reproductive health screenings, including Pap smears and STI tests. Providers and health educators should be aware of these disparities so that they can provide appropriate care to young women and their families and ensure that all young women receive reproductive health screening," the authors write.

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