“Urban myth”

Mistaken belief lesbians don’t need pap smears is putting women at risk

(JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images)

A new study by the University of Sydney found that the “urban myth” that lesbians don’t need pap smears poses a health risk. Pap smears are used to detect cervical cancer spread by the human papillomavirus (HPV), and while the virus is usually contracted through sexual contact with a man, it can also be transmitted through genital skin-to-skin contact or sex toys. “It’s become a bit of an urban myth that women who don’t have sex with men don’t need pap smears, and this is one of the real frustrations about working in this area,” said Dr Julie Mooney-Somers, one of the authors of the study, adding that almost 60 percent of lesbian women surveyed had a history of sex with men — another reason for them to be tested. “Lesbian women also don’t usually need access to contraception so they’re not having those opportunistic discussions with their doctors about screening.”

The research, based on data from a survey of 379 women aged between 17 and 30 taken during the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 2010 and 2012, also revealed that lesbian women generally did not test as often for STI’s as bisexual or queer women. The researchers say these results highlight the importance of targeting their health campaigns to specific groups within the LGBTQ community. “The main message is that while we may be doing well around pap smears in general, some women are being left behind,” Mooney-Somers told The Guardian.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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