Women who have sex with women (WSW) often believe they are at a lower risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections (STI) because they are not having penetrative sex. This is a common misconception, and a dangerous one.
“A friend told me a story about this hot girl they met and took home, ate dinner, kissed and, and… they decided to hit the blankets. The hot lesbian insisted that she is butch and she is not to be touched, my friend insisted on turning the lights on to see the chuchu ‘to bond with it’.”
Filmmaker, Fikile Ntanzi says the girl was reluctant but and agreed eventually and, “Bam! They turn on the lights and she has vaginal warts everywhere, discharge and all.”
Whitman-Walker Health Volunteer Coordinator and Health Educator Melanie Logan, says any STI that can be spread skin-to-skin, including herpes and HPV, poses a risk among WSW.
“Because WSW often practice oral sex, herpes is a common STI among this group, as well as HPV, which is very high among women in the general population across the board,” Logan says. “In addition, performing oral sex on a woman with an infected vagina or urinary tract may result in chlamydia or gonorrhoea in the throat.”
Sierra Smith, a paralegal who teaches music to children in her spare time, says that the thought of contracting an STI actually scares her.
“I don’t want an STI because I teach children music. Often times, there is an issue with their instrument and depending on what instrument it is, I have test it for myself, which involves my mouth,” Smith says. “Also, though not every STI is visible, if I had one that were, it would make me very uncomfortable while conducting lessons and day to day business.”
Logan says, however, there is a lack of awareness and education in the community and a misconception that women who have sex with women should not be tested as frequently.
“Perhaps medical providers are not asking enough about sexual practices with their patients, further exacerbating the lack of education and reducing routine screening? Regular testing is the only way to know if you have an STI for certain because many STIs are asymptomatic, especially in the throat,” Logan says.
Many STIs are curable; bacterial infections including gonorrhea and chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics. However, herpes and HPV have no cure because they are viruses, but they can be treated to lessen the severity of symptoms.
In Washington, D.C., Whitman-Walker Health provides free testing to the community both during the day and evening on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Get more info at http://www.whitman-walker.org/hivtesting.
Other Resources Related to Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Health: