Sexual Health

June 2009

Professional

Lesbian and bisexual women’s sexual health

Volume 38, No.6, June 2009 Pages 388-393

Ruth McNair

Background

Lesbian and bisexual women have specific sexual health needs, including the need for information about transmission and prevention of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) between women, contraceptive and conception advice, and support regarding any abuse experiences. These needs can be easily accommodated in general practice. However, there are a number of barriers to general practitioners meeting these needs, including lack of experience in facilitating disclosure of sexual orientation, fears of being intrusive, and lack of specific knowledge and skills in the area of minority sexual orientation.

Objective/s

This article presents the current evidence related to lesbian and bisexual women’s sexual health, describes practical skills to conduct a sensitive sexual history, and discusses sexual health advice that GPs could provide to this group of women.

Discussion

Improved GP knowledge in this area will increase GPs’ perceived need to inquire about sexual orientation. Sensitive inquiry can be facilitated by creating a welcoming practice environment, using appropriate terminology, assuring confidentiality, establishing relevance, and by using focused and normalising questions.

Lesbian and bisexual women have specific sexual health needs that can be accommodated easily and effectively in general practice. However, there are a number of barriers that currently prevent general practitioners from raising sexual health issues with this group of women. General practitioners are concerned that patients, in general, will find discussion of sexual issues confronting or offensive, and believe that such discussions take too much time.1 These barriers are compounded when seeing lesbian and bisexual women due to GPs' lack of specific knowledge and skills in the area of minority sexual orientation.2 There is evidence that more GPs feel uncomfortable treating lesbian women than heterosexual women for sexually transmissible infections (STIs).3

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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