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Houston, Texas

People discussing health of women with disabilities
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Sexuality and Reproductive Health--Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexuality and Reproductive Health Table of Contents

The prevalence of sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, is the same for women with disabilities and non-disabled women.

  • For several reasons, STIs often go undetected or diagnosis is delayed in women with disabilities, leading to preventable pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.
    • Women with disabilities may not detect signs and symptoms of STIs, or they may mistake them for urinary tract infections, if they are unable to see them or feel discomfort from them.
    • Doctors who assume women with disabilities are not sexually active may fail to screen for STIs or educate them about safe sex practices.
    • Women with disabilities are discouraged from getting screened for STIs by inaccessible doctors' offices, difficulty getting onto the examination table, or previous experience with doctors not knowing how to handle disability-related symptoms during the exam, such as spasticity, imbalance, and autonomic dysreflexia.
    • Women with disabilities may not take medication prescribed for their STIs because they cannot swallow pills or open the bottle, and no alternatives were offered.
  • Presence of an STI may be a sign of sexual abuse, particularly in women with cognitive impairments, who live in institutions, or who need assistance with personal care.

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