Dionne Newman: Cervical cancer, no longer the silent killer – but only if you are straight

Writer and student Dionne Newman says LGBT+ women have been dangerously disregarded on serious health issues and it must stop

IT is fantastic news that cervical and ovarian cancers are no longer referred to as "silent killers". This is due to the predictions that come from regular cervical screening tests, alerting women before any major symptoms occur.

This means all women are now much safer and should be able to detect any possible irregularities before they become an issue, right? 

Well, no. It doesn’t.

It seems that a substantial portion of women are being turned away and told that they do not need screening tests. The reason for this?  They don’t have sex with men.

It seems that a substantial portion of women are being turned away and told that they do not need screening tests. The reason for this?  They don’t have sex with men.

Recently, a survey conducted by LGBT groups revealed that a significant number of women in the community had been told they did not require female health screening tests due to predominantly being involved within same-sex relationships, thus stating they were not prime victims within the risk categories.

Of course, this is incorrect and a completely absurd remark to make due to the fact that the human papilloma virus (HPV) – which is the cause of most cervical cancers - can be transmitted through lesbian sex, or any type of sex involving vaginal contact for that matter.

It seems some healthcare professionals are inadequately educated regarding same-sex relationships and therefore may be giving incorrect information to the women involved.

A report completed last year shows that more than half of LGBT women were told they did not need sexual health screening tests or treatment because their orientation made them 'less at risk' for diseases. They were also more likely to be subjected to homophobia, harassment and misinformation as doctors assumed they were heterosexual.

Women who have sex with women are regularly under-represented and lack acknowledgment within society which leads to misinformation in both LGBT and mainstream society.

Unfortunately, many women who identify as LGBT suffer from not getting the right health care treatment due to their sexuality, and according to surveys, a shocking 37 per cent of these women reported having been told they were not required to undergo screening tests due to their sexual habits.

Allow me to reiterate: they were supposedly less at risk of developing sexual health problems or a sexually transmitted disease because they were having a different type of intercourse than most women who came through the health care clinic doors.

Women who have sex with women are regularly under-represented and lack acknowledgment within society which leads to misinformation in both LGBT and mainstream society.

This means that it is not only healthcare professionals who are failing these women and putting them at risk, but also our education systems.

There is a severe lack of comprehensive sexual education programmes within schools teaching those in the LGBT communities about safe sex practices, their anatomy or emotional literacy. This means that our LGBT children may be at more risk of developing a sexually transmitted disease than their heterosexual counterparts. They are also less likely to see the warning signs of abusive relationships or sexual harassment.

This means that it is not only healthcare professionals who are failing these women and putting them at risk, but also our education systems.

Reports show that only four per cent of LGBT youths remember having inclusive sexual health programmes at school and only one in three knew how to properly protect themselves from STDs such as HIV and syphilis.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have been proven to be more at risk of contracting sexual diseases due to lack of information. According to surveys, young gay men between the ages of 13-29 account for more than one third of newly acquired HIV infections and young women who identify as lesbian or bisexual have been proven to be more like to contract an STD or be submitted to sexual coercion or dating violence.

This lack of acknowledgment regarding the gay communities needs to be addressed. We cannot claim equality and diversity if we are not paying attention to all the groups involved. 

We need to properly delve in to inclusive sexual education to protect our youth regardless of their orientation and make sure they understand how to protect themselves to the best of their abilities - and I don’t mean by quickly waving over the topic of dental dams and condoms.

This lack of acknowledgment regarding the gay communities needs to be addressed. We cannot claim equality and diversity if we are not paying attention to all the groups involved. 

Our children need to know that these diseases are not just transmitted in heterosexual activities but in any activity involving bodily fluids and genitalia.

It is imperative to make sure that these issues are addressed and that we make a stand for our LGBT communities.

We cannot preach equality and acceptance if we are not willing to follow it up with the actions needed, otherwise we are just practicing hypocrisy for the sake of keeping face.

Picture courtesy of Francisco Osorio

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