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Lesbian and bisexual women wrongly told they don't need pap smears

Health authorities are urging LBT women to insist on getting regular health checks

Lesbian and bisexual women wrongly told they don't need pap smears
Francisco Osorio/Flickr
Lesbian and bisexual women turned away from pap smears

Lesbian and bisexual women are wrongly being told not to get pap smears, LGBTI charities warn.

37% of women who have sex with women are told they do not require a cervical screening test due to their sexual orientation.

This then results in half of lesbian and bisexual women never having smear tests in their lives.

Around 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in the UK, discovered through pap smears.

In research commissioned by the National LGBT Partnership, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is transmitted through ‘intimate’ skin to skin contact.

This oversight results in health inequalities and barriers to accessing adequate healthcare for women who have sex with women.

Liberal Democrat Baroness Elizabeth Barker in the foreword of the report said: ‘[T]o the NHS, we are largely invisible.

‘[Women who have sex with women] lack acknowledgement both in mainstream society and LGBT communities.

‘It is unacceptable that [they] continue to experience discrimination and that thoughtlessness compromises our healthcare,’ Barker said.

The report also states 21% of bisexual women and 12% of lesbian women reported long term mental health issues.

This is in comparison to 4% of heterosexual women.

29% of women who have sex with women report more binge drinking, as opposed to 12% of heterosexual women.

‘Your cervix is worth it’

The Lesbian and Gay Foundation urges all women to insist on getting regular pap smears.

But there are many problems facing women who ask for pap smear tests.

Annie Emery, Head of Services for the LGF, said: ‘Over the years, some lesbian and bisexual women accessing screening have experienced homophobia, assumptions that they are heterosexual, inappropriate treatment and most worryingly of all, misinformation about their health when it comes to cervical screening.’

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