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Disclosure of sexual orientation to health care providers among lesbians

Diane S. Tider, BA1, David S. Bimbi, MA1, and Jeffrey T. Parsons, PhD2. (1) CHEST, Hunter College-CUNY, 250 West 26th Street, Suite 300, New York, NY 10001, 212-206-7919 x239, dtider@hunter.cuny.edu, (2) Psychology Department, Hunter College of the City University of New York, 695 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10021

OBJECTIVES: To examine reasons for disclosure/non-disclosure of sexual orientation to health care providers (HCPs) among lesbians, and implications for their health.

METHODS: Self-report surveys were completed by 180 lesbian-identified women at an LGBT community event.

RESULTS: Forty-seven lesbians (26.1%) reported not disclosing their sexual orientation to their HCPs. This did not differ by age, race, or relationship status, however, less educated and lower income women were significantly less likely to disclose (χ2(2)=13.6,p=.001; χ2(2)=11.7,p=.003, respectively). Additionally, women who disclosed were significantly more likely to have had a Papanicolaou (pap) test in their lifetimes (OR=4.20; 95%CI=1.67,10.56), and in the past year (OR=3.41;95%CI=1.42,8.22). Most frequent reasons provided for disclosure were “it was important for my care,” and “my doctor asked,” while non-disclosers’ responses included “I didn’t think it was important,” “I was uncomfortable bringing it up,” and “my doctor never asked.”

CONCLUSION: Less educated and lower income lesbian women are not discussing important sexual health issues with their HCPs, and not accessing critical preventive health care. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is widely prevalent in the US, transmitted easily through skin-on-skin contact, and may therefore be passed sexually between women. Routine pap tests can detect strains of HPV, shown to be the cause of cervical cancer, which is highly treatable if caught early. However, left undiagnosed, cervical cancer is a leading cause of death in women worldwide. It is imperative that lesbian women, regardless of sociodemographics, feel comfortable discussing their sexual orientation with their HCPs, understand their risk factors for HPV, and access preventive care.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this paper, the participant will be able to

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Lesbian and Bisexual Women's Health

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA