Protecting oneself against STI’s for women who have sex with women


For many years, the government and other institutions have addressed the issue of STI’s (sexually transmitted infections) and how people need to protect themselves from getting them. It is generally known that the best way to protect yourself and your partner against STI’s, other than abstaining, is to wear a condom. Perfect! Great! Wonderful!

What about women who have sex with women?

Can they still get an STI?

Sure they can! Women who have sex with women are less at risk of getting an STI. Nevertheless, it is always important to know that one is at risk and how to protect oneself.

Therefore, this information is for all women who have sex with other women. This includes lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals and all women who are questioning their sexual orientation! Here is all the information you need to know :

Types of STIs and other infections

  • Candida
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Herpes (oral and vaginal)
  • Trichomonas
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Shigellosis
  • HPV (genital warts, among others)
  • Intestinal Parasites
  • Crabs (pubic lice)
  • HIV

Ways of transmitting STI’s (AB, CD, E)

  • Cunnilingus (oral-vaginal): Syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, Herpes, HPV & HIV
  • Tribadism (genital-genital): HPV, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes & pubic lice (crabs)
  • Rimming or anulingus (oral-anal): Syphilis, herpes, hepatitis A, HPV & intestinal parasites
  • Penetration by fingers or fisting (finger / hand-vaginal): Trichomonas vaginalis, Chlamydia, gonorrhea & HPV
  • Penetration by fingers or fisting (finger / hand-anal): Hepatitis A, intestinal parasites, gonorrhea, herpes & HPV
  • Sex toys (dildos, vibrators, beads, anal plug, other): Trichomonas vaginalis, Chlamydia, Hepatitis A, intestinal parasites, gonorrhea, herpes & HPV
  • Sadomasochism (S / m) with blood sharing: Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C & HIV
  • Menstrual blood: Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C & HIV
  • tThe sharing of intravenous needles by drug users: Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C & HIV

To learn more, click here!

**IMPORTANT**

It is important to know that there are 2 types of STI’s that you will always have if you are infected. When you get it, you have it for life! (1)

1. Herpes

  • Transmission: oral, genital (vaginal, anal) & sexual objects
  • Treatment to relieve symptoms, reduce the frequency and duration of eruptions, reduce the risk of transmission, but no cure
  • Few transmit without being active (between two growths)

2. HIV

  • Transmission: blood, genital secretions and breast milk
  • Treatment : no treatment exist to cure, medications exist to control the virus

You can discuss it with your doctor!

Practice Safe Sex 

If you have a stable partner or if you are single and sexually active, you should be practicing safe sex. Here are some tips to help you :

  1. Research STI’s and other infections and viruses
  2. Discuss your sexual history with your partner BEFORE you participate in any sexual activities
  3. Tell your partner that having this conversation is to better protect the both of you
  4. Before starting a new stable sexual relationship, get yourself tested. If you are single and sexually active, you can get tested regularly. (2)

Use protection:

Latex or hypoallergenic gloves: finger(s)- / hand-genital
Condoms: finger(s)-/ hand-genital or sexual objects

**Important**

If you are interested in stimulating the anal region, start stimulating the vulva and the vagina and then move to stimulate the anus and NOT VICE VERSA to avoid transmitting anal secretions into the vagina. (3) This includes the tongue, fingers, hands or any sexual objects.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Use NEW condoms when switching between partners (includes fingers, hands, sex toys, etc.)
  • Avoid oral sex if you have any cuts on the genital region
  • Use a dental dam (on vagina or anus) that act as a (thin) barrier
  • Wash your hands BEFORE and AFTER you have sex
  • Use latex or hypoallergenic gloves
  • Use condoms if you have sexual relations with a person who has a penis (4)
  • Wash all sex objects BEFORE and AFTER any sexual activities (5)
  • If BOTH partners use the sex object(s), wash between the changing of sexual partners
  • COMMUNICATE with your partner and discuss your sexual history (6)
  • Get tested!
  • Vaccinate yourself! There are vaccines for hepatitis A and B. Furthermore, there is a vaccine for HPV for girls between the ages of 9 and 17 as well as girls aged 26 and under who have a weakened immune system or who are infected with HIV (78)
  • Look before licking!
  • Practice safer sex at all times! (9)

If you want to know more about your vagina, here are two websites: F & G

HIV

It is also important to note that women who have sex with women are also at risk of getting and transmitting HIV. The risk is lower than sex between men as body fluids are exchanged least between women.

The important thing is to protect yourself, to communicate with your partners and to get tested regularly or to go see your doctor!

Remember, you have rights!

  1. To refuse sex
  2. To have sex with women
  3. To practice safe sex (10)

 Communication

Whether you have a stable partner or not, it can be difficult to have a discussion about STI’s. Revealing that you have an STI, especially those that are long term, can be stressful for some people.

If you have an STI, you must tell your partner so she can make the decision of whether or not she wishes to engage in any sexual activity with you.

Why tell your partner that you have an STI:

  • « Some STI’s can cause life-threatening infections if not treated;
  • If you are being treated for a curable STI, but your partner is not, it can be transmitted to you again;
  • Telling a current or past partner, gives that person the opportunity to be tested and, if necessary, treated;
  • In Canada, people living with HIV have a legal duty to disclose their HIV status before having any sex that poses a “significant risk of HIV transmission”. For more information on HIV and the Law, visit the following websites:  COCQSIDACATIE et Portail santé mieux-être-Québec (only in french at the moment);
  • You can also have a legal duty to disclose other STI’s before partaking in any sexual activity (herpes, hepatitis B and hepatitis C) ». Get informed! (11).

Tips on how to have that difficult conversation

As was previously mentioned, having this conversation can be difficult. Moreover, it depends on your comfort level with your partner and how comfortable you are when having these difficult conversations.

You should :

  1. « Prepare before the conversation : Prepare what you want to tell your partner;
  2. Be direct : tell it without revealing all your sexual history;
  3. Prepare for a negative reaction : be proud of yourself for having the courage to have this  conversation even though there is a possibility of a negative reaction;
  4. Discuss this with your doctor or health professional » (12).

If you are concerned about the situation and want to talk to someone who is not a health professional, a sexologist could help you through this process.

Remember! Practice safer sex!

If you would like to know more about STI’s, what they are, the symptoms, the treatments, the complications, the methods of transmission as well as how to protect and prevent, visit the Portail santé mieux-être-Québec web site. However, it is only in french at the moment.

If you have any further questions, you can always ask a question to our counselors in the section « Tell the experts ».

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