Sex Talk

Do lesbians need to worry about sexually transmitted infections?

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng answers your sex questions

22 July 2018 - 00:00
There is a common misconception that women having sex with women are not at risk of sexually transmitted infections.
There is a common misconception that women having sex with women are not at risk of sexually transmitted infections.
Image: 123RF/rawpixel

Q. Do lesbians have to worry about getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

A. Individual health and sexual health outcomes are shaped by many factors, not just sexual orientation: sexual practices, family history, age and socioeconomic status.

There is a common misconception that women having sex with women are not at risk of STIs.

The human papillomavirus, bacterial vaginosis, human immunodeficiency virus and trichomoniasis also spread between women. Sexual activity involving finger-vaginal or finger-anal contact, shared penetrative sex toys and oral sex can all spread infections.

Sexual activity involving finger-vaginal contact and oral sex can spread infections

Some people may have been rejected or discriminated against by their family or community because of their sexual orientation, and as a result are at risk of depression and anxiety that may lead them to use coping mechanisms such as alcohol and smoking.

This means that when there is intimate partner violence or sexual abuse, it is difficult to share experiences or get help because you may not be "out". Those who have experienced violence may also feel unsafe to report this in case it leads to more violence, alienation and unreliable social support.

If you have a mental health concern, find a doctor who is compassionate and can advise you regarding your medical needs.

If you feel safe, let your healthcare provider know about your sexual orientation and get the relevant sexual health information.

During oral sex, use a dental dam, and during vaginal or anal penetration, use a latex glove. Wash sex toys with hot soapy water between uses or cover them with a fresh condom.

It is important to have routine screenings for blood pressure and cholesterol and breast and cervical cancer.

• Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng (MBChB), sexual and reproductive health practice, Disa Clinic, safersex.co.za.

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