STDs among sexually active female college students: does sexual orientation make a difference?

Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2008 Dec;40(4):212-7. doi: 10.1363/4021208.


Context: Research addressing sexual health or STD risk among lesbian and bisexual college women is scarce.

Methods: Data on 29,952 sexually active females aged 18-24 who completed the 2006 National College Health Assessment were examined to assess differences in sexual risk factors and recent STD incidence by sexual orientation. Comparisons were analyzed at the bivariate level and through multivariate logistic regression.

Results: Bisexual students were the most likely to have had an STD during the past year (9%); lesbians were the least likely (2%). However, lesbians were also the least likely to have had a routine gynecologic examination (46%, compared with 64-73% of others). Among students who had had multiple partners in the past year, those who had had partners of both sexes were more likely to have had an STD (16%) than were students who had had only male partners (9%) or only female partners (6%). Students who had binged on alcohol the last time they partied, had had multiple partners or had had a routine gynecologic examination in the past year, had been tested for HIV or had not used condoms at last vaginal intercourse were at increased odds of having had an STD (odds ratios, 1.3-4.0).

Conclusions: Sexual health programs targeting female college students, regardless of sexual orientation, must focus on behavioral risks associated with STDs. In addition, the importance of regular gynecologic exams should be emphasized, especially among lesbians. Further research is needed on risk-taking among female college students who are sexually active with both sexes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexuality / psychology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / etiology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / psychology*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Universities
  • Unsafe Sex / psychology*
  • Young Adult