Women who have sex with women living in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review of sexual health and risk behaviors

Academic Article


  • Women who have sex with women (WSW) have long been considered at low risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, limited research has been conducted on WSW, especially those living in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). We reviewed available research on sexual health and risk behaviors of WSW in LMICs. We searched CINAHL, Embase, and PubMed for studies of WSW in LMICs published between January 1, 1980, and December 31, 2013. Studies of any design and subject area that had at least two WSW participants were included. Data extraction was performed to report quantifiable WSW-specific results related to sexual health and risk behaviors, and key findings of all other studies on WSW in LMICs. Of 652 identified studies, 56 studies from 22 countries met inclusion criteria. Reported HIV prevalence among WSW ranged from 0% in East Asia and Pacific and 0%-2.9% in Latin America and the Caribbean to 7.7%-9.6% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Other regions did not report WSW HIV prevalence. Overall, many WSW reported risky sexual behaviors, including sex with men, men who have sex with men (MSM), and HIV-infected partners; transactional sex; and substance abuse. WSW are at risk for contracting HIV and STIs. While the number of research studies on WSW in LMICs continues to increase, data to address WSW sexual health needs remain limited.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • LGBT Health  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 22142828
  • Author List

  • Tat SA; Marrazzo JM; Graham SM
  • Start Page

  • 91
  • End Page

  • 104
  • Volume

  • 2
  • Issue

  • 2