For bisexual female adolescents, proper sexual healthcare is difficult to obtain due to healthcare providers’ judgmental attitudes and assumptions of patient heterosexuality, and lack of opportunities for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI) testing. Additionally, youth openness with healthcare providers is restricted due to stigma experienced within families of bisexual teen girls and concerns of confidentiality. These findings were published in LGBT Health, a Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. publication.
Principle investigators of this NIH-funded study, Dr. Celia B. Fisher, Director of the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education and Dr. Brian Mustanski, Director of the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing, along with Drs. Miriam Arbeit and Kathryn Macapagal, describe these health care disparities in the article, Bisexual Invisibility and the Sexual Health Needs of Adolescent Girls. The study analyzed bisexual female adolescents’ perspectives on their access to health information and services provided by health care professionals.
In addition to attitudes and assumptions of healthcare providers and stigma within families, the findings also included limited school-based sexual health education as an important factor contributing to insufficient health care for bisexual adolescent girls.
“The findings from our study are consistent with the unfortunate fact that sexual health care of adolescent girls has largely been absent or focused primarily on birth control tools that do not prevent risk of HIV and other STI – especially if male partners refuse to use condoms,” notes Fisher, Director of Fordham Center for Ethics Education, “and this problem is exacerbated for bisexual girls who may be unprepared for sexual experiences with male partners or who engage in such experiences to avoid social stigma.”
The researchers concluded that practitioners must improve standard sexual health practices involving female youth by integrating nonjudgmental questions regarding bisexuality. According to Fisher, the study “underscores the need for additional training of family physicians and gynecologists to engage in patient centered discussions that help to overcome bisexual invisibility and fears of medical discrimination that are barriers to bisexual girls sexual health.” In a recent article about the study, William Byne, MD, PhD of LGBT Health, adds, “Knowledge of a patient’s sexuality is essential to the biopsychosocial model of clinical practice.”
According to the study, other forms of support of bisexual health among adolescent girls include addressing stigma, increasing sensitivity to privacy and expansion of school-based sexual health education.