A smear test isn’t the most pleasant of experiences, but it’s a must when it comes to ruling out cervical cancer.
The human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes most cervical cancers, is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives – and it is most commonly spread during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.
Despite this, however, LGBT groups have said that many lesbian and bisexual women are being incorrectly told that it can’t be transmitted via lesbian sex – and, as a result, half of all eligible lesbian and bisexual women have never had a smear test.
“As HPV can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact in the genital area, gay women are equally at risk of contracting HPV and experiencing abnormal cervical changes and, thus, should always attend when invited for cervical screening.”
All women over 25 should have a smear test every 3 year, as a method of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix.
The findings, which are part of National Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health Week, also highlight mental health problems and binge drinking in the LGBT community. According to the research, just over a fifth (21%) of bisexual women and just over a tenth (12%) of lesbian women reported a long term mental health problem, compared to 4% of heterosexual women. When it comes to binge drinking nearly a third (29%) of lesbian and bisexual women 12% in the general population of women, admitted that it was a problem.
A large majority, 36%, of health care professionals also assumed lesbian and bisexual women were heterosexual.
Read more: “It’s time to address your fears ladies”
Commenting on the awareness week, the LGBT Foundation’s Claudia Carvellhe said: “When it comes to healthcare, lesbian, bisexual and other women who have sex with women continue to face a range of barriers, and inequalities still exist.
“The aim of the week is to raise awareness of the issues but also to celebrate and promote some of the great work being done in this area by groups and services across the country.
“Service providers and individuals can get involved in a variety of ways – including a thunderclap, posters, infographics, blog posts and selfies. We would encourage everyone to visit the website to find out how they can be part of the change.”
Words: Sarah Finley
Images: Rex Pictures