Sexual orientation inequalities during provider-patient interactions in provider encouragement of sexual and reproductive health care

Prev Med. 2019 Sep:126:105787. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2019.105787. Epub 2019 Jul 30.


The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, sexually transmitted infection (STI) tests, and Papanicolaou (Pap) testing rates vary by sexual orientation, which may be due in part to healthcare providers (HCP) recommending this care unevenly. Data (N = 17,675) came from the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS) (N = 8039) and Nurses' Health Study 3 (NHS3) (N = 9636). Among participants who met clinical guidelines to receive the care in question, we estimated the probability of an HCP encouraging participants to have the HPV vaccination, STI tests, or Pap test. Regardless of sexual orientation, participants whose HCP knew their sexual orientation were more likely to have been encouraged to get care compared to those whose HCP did not know the participant's sexual orientation. Sexual minority men and women were more likely to be encouraged to obtain HPV vaccination, STI tests, and Pap test than same-gender, completely heterosexuals with no same-sex partners, with some variation by gender and the care in question. Lesbian women were the sole sexual orientation subgroup that was less likely to be encouraged to receive care (HPV vaccination and Pap test) than their same gender, completely heterosexual counterparts with no same-sex partners (odds ratio [95% confidence interval]: 0.90 [0.80-1.00] and 0.94 [0.91-0.98], respectively). The differences across sexual orientation in HCPs' encouragement of care indicate a possible explanation for differences in utilization across sexual orientation. Across the US, HCPs under-encourage HPV vaccination, STI tests, and Pap test for all sexual orientation groups. Lesbian patients appear to be at high risk of under-encouragement for the Pap test.

Keywords: Papanicolaou test; Papillomavirus vaccines; Physician-patient relations; Sexual and gender minorities; Sexually transmitted diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • Homosexuality, Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Papanicolaou Test
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Reproductive Health
  • Reproductive Health Services*
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / psychology*
  • United States
  • Young Adult