Welcome back to Sugar Walls! Continuing our safe sex theme for the week we are extremely pleased to present an honest and informative view on sexual health for all the ladylovers out there. The Doctor will see you, after the jump…

Listen up ladies! LESBIANS GET STDS. I know that it can seem like we’re “the chosen people” because SOME of our STD rates are lower and who really uses a dental dam anyway, but there’s a lot of misinformation on this topic. There’s only been one big study done on sexual health and lesbians (I know, I know), but here’s what we know.

**HPV**

We know that several strains of HPV cause cervical cancer, and there is a vaccine out for all the youngins 25 or under. But the truth is that most of us test positive for at least one strain of HPV – and the prevalence of HPV is the same between lesbians and heterosexual women. Studies of gold-star lesbians (gay ladies who’ve never had sex with a man) have found women with high grade cervical cancer from HPV. HPV can be contracted just by sexual touching; a dental dam won’t help here. Even rubber gloves (ew) won’t do it. So – what can you do about it? Get a pap smear. Every year. I know it’s not fun. I know that sometimes gay and butch women have really unfortunate experiences with this. Try a new doc. Schedule a therapy session for after. But just go. You should go ideally every year, but if your pap is clear the next time you go, you can wait two years. It takes about three years to progress from minimal cervical dysplasia to cervical cancer, and you don’t want to wait that long. Make the time.

**Herpes**

Time for a little myth-busting. There are two strains of herpes – HSV1 and HSV2. HSV1 is usually oral and HSV2 is usually genital. But you can get oral herpes in your genitals. In fact, lesbians show the highest rate of HSV1 producing genital ulcers. Researchers think it’s because “lesbians’ relatively frequent practice of orogenital sex” puts us at increased risk. Anyway, the herp. You’ll know you’ve got it if you have blisters that hurt like a motherfuck. (Other STDs cause painless lesions). Many people are asymptomatic, but you should definitely be tested for herpes if you get pregnant – the only truly harmful affect of the virus is severe infection of newborns if mom has an outbreak during delivery (which can happen in times of stress). You’ll want to know to watch for it. So, this is one of those STIs that CAN be prevented by a dental dam – realistically speaking, though, most of us won’t use these bad boys. If you’re afraid that all your rug munching is putting you at risk, just avoid dropping on your lady friend while you have an oral herpes blister on your mouth (quick FYI – oral herpes is only on regular skin. Those cold sore blisters that you get inside your mouth? Not infectious. Feel free to dive right in). Herpes is totally manageable folks – after the first outbreak, you can take a pill to prevent future ones. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell your partners. I know it’s stigmatized (overly stigmatized, in my opinion), but the solution to this is talking more freely about herpes, not hiding it.

**Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)**

Fun fact: the official test for BV is called the Whiff Test. You add a base to vaginal fluid and… take a whiff. If it smells fishy, it’s positive. At any given time, almost HALF of the lesbians out there have BV, compared to 21% of heteros. Hear that ladies? This one loves us – he’s been around my block more than once. Unfortunately, doctors NEVER test for this unless you ask, and it’s not something you want to leave untreated, because it can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – ie infertility and intense pain during sex. How do you know if you have it? The first sign is that you feel… wetter than usual. Just kind of casually damp. If this persists, take a shower and wash your vagina with some regular bar soap. You don’t have to get all up in there – just between the outer labia. Soap is a base, see? And just like the whiff test, if you catch the scent of fish rising, make an appointment with your OB GYN. There are two treatment options: oral antibiotics or vaginal cream. The antibiotics are mess free, but you can NOT DRINK on them, and I’m not talking about the usual don’t-drink-on-antibiotics deal. This drug blocks alcohol metabolism, so any little bit you drink builds up. You’ll get really sick really fast. If you can’t abide not drinking for a week, ask for the cream. This is the goopier option, but it allows you to continue boozing.

**Other Big Guns**

Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and HIV are all less common among women who have sex with women. But remember, most ladies HAVE slept with men at some point, or have slept with women who’ve slept with men. The most important step in avoiding these bastards is using condoms… on your strap ons. Same rules apply here as in the hetero world. You should use condoms if you’re strapping it on with different partners or until you and your monogamous partner have had an STD panel. You should ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS use condoms if you’re using the strap on for anal penetration (unless, again, you are mono and have a dedicated back door buddy). You guys will hear more next week about different strap-on materials, but STD transmission is very possible via non-silicon toys. If you can strap it on, you can take yourself to the drug store and buy those XXL magnums.

Lesbians are really under served in terms of gynecological care, and it’s up to US to change that. We have to take care of ourselves. So, test early, test often, embrace the specula, and cover your little men. We’ll all be healthier for it.

*This dyke is only half a doctor, but she’s as good as you’re gonna get.


*Contributed by DoctorDyke*

Resources

www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol10no11/04-0467.htm (This CDC article reviews the major study and several minor studies on various facets of sexual health among lesbians).

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