Sex When it's Not Sexy

Sexually transmitted diseases increase among women with a reckless partner

(RxWiki News) It's risky business having sex. Getting intimate with a partner who does reckless activities can lead women to some yucky infections.

Women who have unprotected sex with HIV-positive partners and drug abusers are likelier to get a sexually transmitted disease, according to a recently published study.

These results indicate high-risk sex behaviors and show the need for women to be regularly screened.

"Wear a condom during sex."

Marjan Javanbakht, PhD, associate professor in-residence at the University of California Los Angeles' School of Public Health, led researchers in finding how often women who have anal sex get sexually transmitted diseases. Researchers looked at more than 2,000 visits to health clinics across Los Angeles by women getting tested for rectal chlamydia and gonorrhea.

They included women who reported having anal intercourse within the last three months since the start of the study. Almost two-thirds of the women were 30 years of age or younger. Almost half were African American, a third were Hispanic, and a little over a tenth were white.

The women were tested over a two-year period between January 2008 and December 2010. Researchers looked at patients' medical records and responses to surveys on their sexual behavior given by clinical nurses.

They also reported whether they had exchanged money or drugs for sex and if they or their sex partner had ever been jailed. The survey also asked patients whether they had sex with someone who injected themselves with drugs or if the patients themselves abused drugs.

Women reported using illegal substances, including marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamines, in more than 40 percent of the clinical visits.

Among the visits, researchers found that 12 percent tested positive for urogenital chlamydia and another 15 percent had rectal chlamydia.

As for other STDs, a little more than 3 percent had urogenital gonorrhea and another 3 percent had rectal gonorrhea.

The number of women with rectal infections was higher among those who were younger than 25. About 47 percent of women who had sex with a drug user had an STD versus about 16 percent who had not.

Among that same age group, more than two-thirds of those who reported having sex with an HIV-positive partner were positive for an STD, compared to 16 percent of women who did not have a partner with HIV. Almost 11 percent of women older than 25 had rectal infections if they were substance abusers themselves.

"We also found that rectal chlamydia or gonorrhea positivity varied by age, with the levels highest among those in the youngest age groups," researchers wrote in their report.

Doctors and other medical personnel are encouraged to create counseling messages specific to women about the infections they can get when having sex, condom usage, and the risks with substance abuse and unprotected anal sex, researchers said.

"Our findings highlight the fact that a relatively large number of infections in this population would be missed in the absence of rectal testing," researchers report.

Sexually active women who engage in riskier activities are more likely to get rectal screening, the authors note.

In addition, some of the tests may not have been solely for the rectum. Relying on patients to truthfully answer questions may have also skewed the results since patients are sharing sensitive information. Because of this, some women may have underreported whether they had anal sex and thus were not tested for STDs.

The study was published in the December 2012 issue of the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The California HIV/AIDS Research Grants Program funded the study. The authors do not report any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 6, 2012