Women who have sex with women
Sometimes, lesbians and bisexual women are told they don't need to be tested for STIs which is not the case.
A survey showed that 50% of lesbians and bisexual women who had STI testing had been diagnosed with an infection. Of those women who had an STI, one in four had only had sex with women in the previous five years.
Women can catch STIs such as herpes, genital warts and chlamydia when exchanging bodily fluids. Any one-on-one contact, such as oral sex or using the same hand when touching yourself and then your partner, can put you at risk. Two women that are both menstruating are at a higher risk, too.
Tips for safer sex between women
- STIs can be passed on by sharing sex toys. Avoid sharing toys or use condoms and change them between partners. Toys should also be washed regularly with soap and water.
- Avoid oral sex if either of you has any cuts or sores in the mouth or on the lips, or use a dental dam. A dental dam is a latex or polyurethane (very thin, soft plastic) square, of about 15cm by 15cm, which you can use to cover the genitals during oral sex. It acts as a barrier to help prevent sexually transmitted infections passing from one person to another.
- Some infections can be transmitted by hands, fingers and mutual vulval rubbing. Wash your hands before and after sex.
- Wear latex gloves and use plenty of water-based lubricant for vaginal and anal penetration.
Lesbians and bisexual women are sometimes told they do not need smear tests (cervical screening). This is because the human papillovirus, which is strongly associated with cervical cancer is passed through penetrative sex. However many lesbians and bisexual women have had penetrative sex, or have shared bodily fluids or sex toys. If you are in any doubt, we would recommend you attend for cervical screening.
Many lesbian and bisexual women are not ‘out’ to their GP practices. If you are happy to discuss this at your smear, the nurse will be able to use a smaller speculum to make the procedure more comfortable for you.