Lesbian and bisexual women face unique problems when it comes to sexual health care. Many healthcare professionals have had little or no training on health issues specific to women who have sex with women or have sex with both males and females. They may make assumptions about the patient’s need for birth control, ask about a boyfriend instead of a partner, educate on safer sex practices that may not apply or not be aware of sexual health issues unique to this population.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services there are several factors that can prevent lesbian and bisexual women from getting good health care.
- Being afraid to reveal your sexual orientation or sexual history
- Having a health care provider who does not know your disease risks or issues that may be unique to you
- Not having health insurance or not being able to qualify for your partner’s insurance
- Not realizing the risk of STDs and cancer of the female reproductive organs
In general, women who are lesbian or bisexual have a higher rate of obesity, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse and stress. These are primary factors in heart disease, cancer and diabetes. In addition, sexually transmitted diseases can be spread from woman to woman sexual contact through:
- Skin-to-skin contact
- Mucosa contact (Oral sex)
- Vaginal fluids
- Menstrual blood
- Sharing sex toys
Some STDs are more common among lesbians and bisexual women than the general populaton. The STDS that are most likely to be passed are:
- Bacterial vaginosis – BV often occurs in both members of the couple. The vagina has a natural balance of mostly helpful bacteria to lesser amounts of harmful bacteria. BV develops when the balance is reversed. Sometimes there are no symptoms but there may be vaginal itching or fishy smelling discharge. BV is cured with antibiotics.
- Chlamydia – Chlamydia is caused by a bacteria being passed during vaginal, oral or anal sex. It often has no symptoms. It can be cured with antibiotics.
- Genital herpes – Genital herpes is caused by herpes simplex types 1 and 2. Type 1 usually causes painful blister on the mouth or lips while type 2 typically is spread by genital skin-to-skin contact. However, oral sex can spread either type between two partners. Medications can lessen the symptoms, but there is no cure.
- Human Papillomavirus – HPV can cause warts which may be removed and cancer of the cervix, which can be detected by a Pap test. Here is a vaccine to help prevent several strains of the virus.
- Trichomoniasis – Trich is caused by a parasite that can be spread during sex. You can also get it from contact with damp moist objects such as towels or wet clothes. It can be treated with antibiotics.