What Women Can Do to Seek the HIV Treatment They Deserve

It’s recently come to light through The New York Times that women are not likely to receive the same quality of HIV treatment as men do. Even though half of HIV patients are women, most research subjects are men. While that doesn’t sound all that problematic, it does mean that we are only figuring out how men respond to HIV medications, not women. And as The New York Times notes, it turns out women respond quite differently. But only 11% are represented in HIV cure trials. So it’s likely many medications and medical strategies are more focused to help men.

What’s more, women have a few other biological barriers to surviving an HIV infection. They are more likely to progress to AIDS faster than men. And the female hormone estrogen can make HIV dormant, making it more difficult for medication or the body’s immune system to kill the HIV virus.

But what does this all really mean? Surely, governments would have done something by now if HIV treatments were ineffective, right? Well, luckily, HIV treatments do work for women. They’re just not as effective as they could be.

For the time being, however, they are the only thing that’s available, so if you’re a woman with HIV, you will just have to rely on them until something better comes about. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t treat your HIV! You just need to consider applying the following.

Ask after antiretroviral therapy.

person holding two medicine pills

To start, you should quickly ask your doctor about antiretroviral therapy (ART). This therapy uses medication to keep HIV levels low in the body. Doing this allows the body time to heal its immune system and prevents HIV from being passed on.

Those who have no access or choose to not access ART may soon find their body’s health fading. Without ART, HIV is allowed to run rampant through the body and do severe damage to the immune system. And without a proper immune system, a body has no protection against illnesses caused by germs, bacteria, or infections.

To avoid this health concern, you should seriously consider taking ART medication like Retrovir (zidovudine). But for the best results, you should ask your doctor what will work best against your particular HIV condition. And it doesn’t hurt to do some personal research, keeping in mind the best practices of finding reliable health information on the Internet.

Change your lifestyle.

raw meat with spices on green ceramic plate

Outside of taking much-needed ART medication, you will also likely need to make some lifestyle changes to stay healthy. Some of these may include the following:

  • Avoiding foods that affect ART — Some foods, such as raw meats and fish, may interact negatively with HIV medication, so you are better off cutting them out of their diet entirely.
  • Maintaining a healthy diet — You should make sure you get six essential nutrients in your diet. Protein for muscle build-up and immune strength. Carbohydrates for energy. Fat for more energy. Vitamins for better body process regulation. Minerals for a boost to the effect of vitamins and to promote bodily tissue growth. Water for help with giving body cells shape. To determine how much of each is needed, a health-care professional should be consulted.
  • Exercising regularly — No matter a person’s condition, consistent exercise can help boost their body’s health. It can increase a person’s strength, endurance, fitness, and immune system. And women with HIV have no limitations on what exercises they can do.

Take travel precautions.

moving train near trees

When traveling abroad, make sure you take precautions to avoid getting an opportunistic infection. Even if your immune system is doing particularly well with treatment, it is still likely a bit weakened and more vulnerable to infections during travel. So try to do the following before you leave:

  • Talking to a health-care provider — A health-care provider can let you know if there are any health risks in the areas you plan on visiting and whether or not you should take any travel medication. On top of that, they can help you plan for a medication you might need to combat common conditions like traveler’s diarrhea and specific vaccinations.
  • Coming up with protection against insects — Some insects like mosquitoes can carry around diseases, such as malaria or Zika, so you should bring items that will protect you from them. These may involve a hefty supply of insect repellent, long-sleeve shirts, long pants, a hat to protect your head, and a mosquito net.
  • Planning for poor food safety — Not all countries will have the same level of hygiene when it comes to food. So certain foods and even water may contain germs. You can avoid getting infections from these germs by eating only hot foods, avoiding raw food and unpasteurized dairy products, and drinking bottled beverages.

Remember to stay calm.

Having an HIV diagnosis can be scary, but don’t panic! Many other women are in your situation while still living happy, healthy lives. So take a moment to calm down and then stick to the previously mentioned HIV treatments. They will help you avoid the worst of HIV and enjoy the best parts of good health.

Fortnightly Medical News Round-Up

This week’s medical news round-up is all about the human brain, perhaps the most mysterious, complex, and fascinating part of what makes homo sapiens, homo sapiens.

Leonardo da Vinci had ADHD?

Mona Lisa painting

A professor from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London argues that the great artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci likely had ADHD. This would explain why da Vinci couldn’t finish many of his works.

According to the paper’s author, Professor Catani, da Vinci was said to be a procrastinator since his childhood. He shared many other characteristics of the condition, such as working day and night interspersed with short cycles of sleep, jumping from task to task, and being left-handed and possibly dyslexia.

So even though having a kid with ADHD can be frustrating when you can’t get them to finish their homework, remember that ADHD doesn’t mean a low IQ or less success!

Science could change the way you see your memories.

Collection of Gray Scale Photos

What if science could alter your relationship with a painful memory? Scientists have discovered that by stimulating memory cells in the top area of the hippocampus, negative emotions associated with traumatic memories can be lessened. Meanwhile, stimulating memory cells at the bottom of the hippocampus can make bad memories even worse.

This study was done on mice which, though similar to humans in many ways, are still very much a very different species. So we have a long way to go until we can, well, control other people’s memories. However, this is an important finding for those who suffer from mental disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Treat your gut to treat anxiety.

person in red jacket making heart illustration

A review of studies published in the scientific journal General Psychiatry suggests that patients with anxiety symptoms may find relief by regulating gut organisms with probiotics and non-probiotic supplements and food.

Scientists found that out of the 21 studies they reviewed, 11 showed that regulating intestinal microorganisms had a positive effect on anxiety symptoms. However, other studies suggested this doesn’t work.

Non-probiotic interventions, such as adjusting diet rather than taking a probiotics supplement, were more effective. The scientists involved think this is the case because diet changes have a larger impact on gut bacteria.

It’s true; augmented reality (AR) influences how we behave.

woman wearing black VR goggles

Halfway between total fiction and reality, augmented reality (AR) is when computer-generated content is “layered” on top of the real, existing environment. Scientists have found that after people were exposed to AR, their way of interacting with the real, physical environment changed even after removing the AR device.

For example, subjects performed more poorly on tasks when they had an avatar watching them in the augmented reality. Furthermore, a vast majority of subjects chose to sit in a seat next to the avatar when they took off their device, as opposed to sitting in the seat the avatar once sat.

More than a Pokemon-catching game, AR has great potential for practical use in our hyper-connected world. For example, the research leader suggested AR could be used to hold meaningful meetings between professionals on different sides of the planet, which is a lot more environmentally-friendly (as well as convenient)!

Being a dog person is coded into your genes!

Close-Up Photo of Woman Kissing A Dog

Are you a dog person or a cat person (or a hamster or fish person)? If you’re a doggo fan, this may be coded into your genes!

Scientists found that identical twins were more likely to both own a dog or not own a dog when compared to non-identical twins. This suggests that the propensity to own a dog has a genetic component.

Many studies have claimed positive health effects from owning a dog, but the finding that some people have a more genetic propensity towards owning a dog may someday partly explain the positive impact of dogs on human health.

Why You Should Care About Sexual Health

Sex isn’t something our society likes to talk about. In fact, most of us were taught since we were kids that sex is the kind of topic you keep far away from polite conversation. Despite mental health topics being more and more welcome in today’s conversations, sexual health is still quite taboo.

Talking about sexual health may make you blush, but it’s important too! Sexual health is strongly related to both your physical and mental health and something not going quite right in your sex life may indicate an underlying physical or psychological issue you should take care of.

Let’s explore further why sexual health is important.

empty bed beside windows during daytime

Your sexual health can tell you a lot about your physical health.

The human reproductive system is tied to many of our other bodily systems. One simple example: huffing and puffing during sex may mean you need to work on your cardiovascular health!

Sex has numerous health benefits. It can:

  • Improve sleep quality
  • Relieve chronic pain
  • Strengthen your heart
  • Boost your immune system
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower risk of prostate cancer

Problems With Your Parts?

Unfortunately, our equipment doesn’t always work perfectly. For people with penises, erectile dysfunction (ED) may be more than a frustration; it could be an indicator of an underlying health condition, including diabetes, kidney disease, and high blood pressure. While it can also indicate prostate cancer, don’t panic! ED is quite common (affecting about 30 million Americans), and most people who have it don’t also have prostate cancer.

For people with vaginas, pain during sex can also be both distressing and a health issue. While some cases can be remedied with a little lube, pain may indicate a problem like ovarian cysts, endometriosis, or simply an irritating skin condition. You deserve to have pleasurable sex, so talk to your doctor or gynecologist if sex makes you uncomfortable.

man kissing woman on her forehead

Sexual health is a big part of mental health.

Sex can be an issue for people with existing mental health conditions that require treatment by medications. Many antidepressants lower libido as a side effect. This can be frustrating for patients taking these drugs, but they may be uncomfortable bringing it up with their doctors. They may not even know that a prescription drug is a reason behind their bedroom troubles.

So if you’re reading this, take medication, and are experiencing bedroom troubles, please do talk to your doctor! Fixing your problems can be as simple as switching to a slightly different medicine that delivers the same treatment. Don’t be shy about talking to your doctor about sex. Chances are they have plenty of experience with these issues.

You deserve a healthy relationship.

Perhaps more significant than both physical and psychological health effects, sexual health has a profound impact on your relationships. Misunderstandings can put strains on intimate relationships. For example, if one partner experiences pain during sex and thus doesn’t enjoy it, but their partner doesn’t know, the partner that does enjoy sex may assume they’re not attractive enough. This can lead to relationship conflict and loss of self-esteem. That’s why it’s important to keep communicating about everyone’s needs, wants, likes, and dislikes.

two person holding each other's hands

A Word About Consent

Consent is also another important topic, especially in today’s #MeToo era. Consent means the person you want to have sex with, freely and clearly agrees to sex. Planned Parenthood offers a simple way to remember what is considered consent: FRIES.

  1. Freely given
  2. Reversible
  3. Informed
  4. Enthusiastic
  5. Specific

A few more important things about consent:

  • It can be withdrawn at any time.
  • Just because you didn’t say no, doesn’t mean you consented. Consent must be clear, enthusiastic, and freely given.
  • People who are drunk or high are not capable of consenting, nor are minors.
  • Being in a relationship does not automatically imply consent.

Remember, you deserve a healthy relationship! If you are currently struggling with sexual health-related issues, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Prioritize yourself.

A woman in a saree is reading a newspaper and sitting next to one on a curb.

Fortnightly Medical News Round-Up: Scientific Turnabouts against Health Concerns

Over the past two weeks, science has made a few discoveries that could prove to be significant counters against a number of health concerns.

To learn more, take a look at some of the highlights!

Sunscreen does not seem to affect vitamin D production as previously thought.

Two hands are shown against a bright yellow background, where one hand is applying sunscreen to the other.

Many of us worry about our vitamin D intake. And for good reason! Vitamin D is not easily found in food sources, and the majority of it is probably gained through sunlight. But the benefits of getting vitamin D are critical for our bodies. After all, this vitamin helps the body build and maintain healthy bones.

But because this vitamin comes to us mainly through sunlight, there have been concerns about how sunscreen might impact vitamin D intake. No one wants to get sunburnt, and skin cancer is equally undesirable, if not more so. But does protecting ourselves with sunscreen negatively impact how much vitamin D we get?

Luckily, science has an answer that will be music to most, if not all, ears! According to the British Journal of Dermatology, there is little to no impact. Even if you put on sunscreen with a low ultraviolet A protection factor, you’ll still get vitamin D. But it’s good to note that you’ll get even more vitamin D using a sunscreen with a high ultraviolet A protection factor.

Untreatable childhood brain cancer could soon become treatable.

A young girl is on a swing in a wooded area.

For years, the childhood brain cancer diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPG) has been considered terminal. There are radiation therapy and experimental chemotherapy treatments available for the condition, but neither is considered to be a full-on cure. Most of the time, children who end up with DIPG are expected to only live nine to 12 months after their diagnosis.

But the academic journal Communications Biology has recently published a study indicating that there may soon be hope for those with DIPG. They have discovered a new drug that will be able to target a weakness found in DIPG, which could prove to be an effective and important treatment in the future.

Virtual reality technology could assist people with dementia.

A black virtual reality headset is sitting on a glass head mannequin.

Like DIPG, there is no cure for dementia. Instead, people who have the condition gradually lose their grasp of their cognitive abilities until they’re eventually unable to handle everyday tasks on their own.

It’s a tragic condition to have, and while science has yet to find a potential cure, there may be a new form of help for those with dementia. As noted by a study under the academic publication Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, providing eight dementia patients with virtual reality (VR) headsets offered a number of benefits, such as:

  • Helping them recall old memories through a stimuli that patients might not experience outside of VR
  • Giving their caregivers more information about their lives before care
  • Improving their social interactions with caregivers
  • Lifting their mood and motivation

The study was quite small, so it’s not known if these benefits would transfer to most dementia patients. But it does show how much better off the lives of dementia patients could be.

Avocados may help counter weight gain.

An avocado split in half rests on a granite surface.

Trying to lose weight can be incredibly difficult. Unfortunately, your body is built to keep starvation a non-issue, but not obesity. So once you lose weight, your body tries to resist further weight loss by lowering your resting metabolic weight.

It sounds like an impossible situation. However, the academic journal Nutrients notes that replacing avocados with carbohydrates could promote hunger suppression and meal satisfaction. So your weight loss could get a bit easier if you start looking to add avocado to your diet!

There’s sure to be more helpful discoveries like these, so look forward to more intellectually nourishing news in a fortnight!

A woman with no top is looking to the side with most of her face covered by hair.

The Troubles and Treatments of Trichotillomania

Have you ever wondered why that person over there can’t seem to stop pulling at their eyebrows?

They don’t seem to be in pain or anything. But pulling out hair doesn’t seem like a typical reaction. Isn’t that a form of self-harm? Should you intervene?

Well, before you go over there and interrupt someone’s day, you might want to consider that this person might have trichotillomania. It’s a hair-pulling disorder that compels people to pull hair from their scalp, eyebrows, or other areas. This can leave obvious bald patches and cause significant distress as these people try to disguise their hair loss. However, in some cases, it’s quite a mild and manageable condition. Not all cases are so lucky, unfortunately.

Either way, though, it is more damaging to go up to a person with this condition and confront them about it. Doing so can make that person feel judged, which could lead them to avoid seeking help for fear of further judgment.

If you want to help someone with trichotillomania, you’re better off learning about the condition first. Luckily, this article is here to guide you on some of the basic facts surrounding trichotillomania and its troubles and treatments.

Trichotillomania can be a serious source of discomfort for sufferers.

An adult is hugging their knees on leaf-covered ground next to a brick building.

The first thing to keep in mind is that trichotillomania can be extremely distressing for those who have it. While some can live with their condition, others are overwhelmed by the loss of the hair and its impact on their lives. And despite their feelings, they’ll still have a strong urge to pull out their hair. So even as they try to disguise bald patches on their scalp with a hat or cover missing spots in their eyebrows with makeup, their situation will still worsen and increase their stress. In turn, they’ll have an even harder time being able to socialize with others due to the self-consciousness that trichotillomania promotes.

But why then does this condition make hairpulling so compelling?

For some people, trichotillomania offers them a way to relieve any tension, stress, or negative emotions they feel. It seems contradictory considering how much stress hair loss can cause. But even so, satisfying their desire to pull out hair can give them a great sense of relief.

For others, trichotillomania is just something they do automatically. So they might start pulling hair without even realizing it while they’re bored, reading, or watching television.

Other symptoms they might encounter include:

  • Getting increased tension before pulling out hair or resisting the urge to pull
  • Feeling pleasure or relief once the hair has been pulled
  • Having visible hair loss
  • Preferring some types of hair over others
  • Applying ritualistic hair-pulling methods or patterns
  • Wanting to bite, chew, or eat any pulled-out hair
  • Playing with the pulled-out hair
  • Rubbing the pulled-out hair across lips or face
  • Attempting to stop pulling out hair with little success
  • Dealing with significant distress over the hair pulling

All of which can add up to a seriously mixed bag of frustration for sufferers.

Many people misunderstand the cause of the condition.

A blonde-haired woman in a blue shirt with white spots has her hand on her forehead in a gesture of frustration.

It doesn’t help either that the general public doesn’t really understand what causes trichotillomania. As a result, there are a few myths out there that need to be dispelled.

Despite some seeming similarities, trichotillomania is not a sign of an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It’s true that trichotillomania does look similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). After all, the two conditions involve repeated, compelling behaviors. But according to The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, trichotillomania and OCD both have enough differences to indicate that they are not one and the same. And because of that, trichotillomania is classified under the obsessive-compulsive and related disorders category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Likewise, trichotillomania should not be viewed as a form of self-mutilation.

Because a significant loss of hair can be seen as distressing, trichotillomania can look like a form of self-mutilation. But it’s not. Self-mutilation is when people try to harm, punish, or distract themselves from emotions they aren’t able to tolerate. In contrast, those who engage in trichotillomania pull hair to feel positive sensations, such as stress relief or gratification—even if the end result is distressing.

Lastly, the condition can be seen as a sign of some hidden trauma, but it shouldn’t be viewed like that in general.

Much like how many can mistake the stress behind trichotillomania as self-mutilation, others might view it as some sort of unresolved issue that needs to be addressed. But in general, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Recent knowledge of trichotillomania has indicated that the condition is not usually a sign of hidden trauma.

So, what does cause it?

A bright neon question mark is surrounded by an equally bright neon square in a grimy hallway.

So, you know now what doesn’t cause trichotillomania. But what is the cause?

Genetic Predispositions

In some cases, the cause of trichotillomania can be a genetic predisposition for body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors notes, several studies indicate that a great percentage of people with BFRBs have immediate family members with the same issue. One study even showed how hairpulling can equally affect identical and fraternal twins.

Other Related Factors

But a genetic predisposition is just one potential cause of trichotillomania. There are other factors that may be involved as well, such as:

  • Temperament
  • Environment
  • Age of onset
  • Family stress

How can trichotillomania be treated?

No matter the cause, there are a few ways people can treat their trichotillomania.

Medication

To help minimize the desire to pick or pull at hair, health-care professionals may prescribe medication. While the medication won’t treat trichotillomania itself, it can help people with the condition get through therapy that might otherwise have made them feel too uncomfortable. It can even treat other psychiatric conditions that they may be suffering from like depression.

It can be an expensive minimal treatment, however. After all, Americans pay more for prescription medications compared to most other countries. But there is a way around this expense, though. For instance, international and Canadian pharmacy referral sites like Canada Med Pharmacy ship medication from licensed pharmacies outside of the United States for a much cheaper price than what can be found at the local brick-and-mortar pharmacy.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

The most important and effective treatment to look at, however, is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This treatment helps patients address their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a way that gives them a stronger sense of control over their hairpulling. What’s more, this treatment can involve a technique called habit reversal training, which can help combat the strong compulsion for hairpulling that trichotillomania creates.

But don’t forget that these treatments will only help someone with trichotillomania if they feel ready to be treated. So try not to make them feel ashamed. They need all the encouragement they can get because they’re already doing their best to fight themselves and their condition.

Fortnightly Medical News Round-Up: Scientific Proof You’re Actually Super Tired, Less Invasive HPV Testing, and More

Another fortnight, another round of exciting medical news. Here are some hand-picked highlights from the last two weeks.

We may soon be able to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome using a blood test.

People tired of being told they’re not tired, who are tired of being tired, may soon have tangible scientific proof of their condition.

Scientists used an electrical current to test immune cells and plasma in blood samples. When the blood samples were stimulated with stress using salt, the electrical current was also affected. Larger changes in the current indicated stressed cells, which was a distinguishing feature in the chronic fatigue patients. The study tested 40 subjects — 20 with chronic fatigue syndrome and 20 without — and accurately flagged all 20 subjects with the condition without flagging the other 20.

People who complain of chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms are often stigmatized by both peers and medical professionals. Doctors may dismiss their concerns as merely imaginary if their bloodwork comes back otherwise normal. Hopefully, new testing methods can soon reduce this stigma. It may even open doors for research into a chronic fatigue-battling drug.

Urine testing may be as effective as pap smears for cervical screenings.

Pap smears aren’t fun, and many women fail to get the necessary screenings done because of the discomfort and embarrassment involved. This is a concern for doctors because the precancerous stage of cervical cancer can be detected as many as five to 10 years before the cancerous stage, allowing for earlier treatment.

Fortunately, UK scientists have found that urine testing may be just as effective as cervical smears to detect high-risk HPV, the virus responsible for causing cervical cancer. The scientists hope that the availability of urine testing may allow more women to participate in regular cervical screening.

Getting screened for HPV regularly is an important part of women’s healthcare. Soon, you may soon be spared the stirrups and the speculum and be able to get a diagnosis in a painless, private way instead.

Morning calisthenics can improve brain power in older adults the rest of the day.

If you’ve ever wondered why your grandparents like to wake up at the break of dawn and do tai chi or go for a brisk walk in the dark, this peculiar habit of theirs may be helping them keep their brains sharp.

A study led by the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and The University of Western Australia found that in older Australians, moderate intensity exercise in the morning improves decision-making throughout the day when compared with prolonged sitting. They also discovered that frequent, light walking breaks throughout an eight-hour day of sitting can improve memory when compared to sitting without breaks.

The study also found that levels of brain-derived neurotropic growth factor were elevated for eight hours in the subjects that exercised. This protein is important to the survival and growth of neurons that transmit information in the brain.

Obesity and emotional issues may develop as early as age seven.

Adults who assume children lead stress-free lives may need to listen to their kids more carefully. Presented at the European Congress on Obesity (taking place April 28 to May 1), a study found that children who were obese at age seven were at higher risk of emotional issues at age 11, which then predicted a higher body mass index at age 14.

The study was quite comprehensive, using data from 17,215 children born in the UK participating in the Millennium Cohort Study. The researchers adjusted for factors like gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, but they did admit that the study has certain flaws, such as basing data on parental reporting, not the child’s own reporting.

Stay tuned for more health and wellness news!

Unique Health Tips for LGBTQ+ Women

Despite sharing many of the same health concerns as heterosexual, cis-gender women, those who identify as LGBTQ+ women face unique health-care challenges. Unfortunately, inclusive health-care education is lacking, so many people simply grow up without knowing the relevant aspects about safer sex. But this article is here to help inform everyone on some LGBTQ+ health-care tips!

Accessing Healthcare

LGBTQ+ women may face additional barriers to accessing healthcare because LGBTQ+ people in general are disproportionately low-income. If you relate to this, consider the following alternative resources:

  • Low-cost and community health centers may offer sliding scale or free health services.
  • Your local city or state LGBTQ+ advocacy organization may have suggestions, so call them up!
  • You can also find substantially cheaper medication online through international and Canadian pharmacy referral services. These websites link American patients to licensed pharmacies located in countries where drug prices are more strictly regulated.
Two Woman Wearing Blue and Red Sport Shirts and Sunglasses Lying on Brown Surface

General Healthcare

Sadly, LGBTQ+ women are at increased risk for a number of medical conditions. This may be because, put bluntly, it’s stressful to be part of an oppressed minority. When you deal with discrimination every day, taking care of yourself can fall off the priority list.

Be aware that LGBTQ+ women are more at risk for:

  • Breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and gynecological cancers
  • Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse
  • Obesity and inactivity

To avoid these health concerns, ask your health-care provider about health screenings, and remember to get yourself checked up on a regular basis. The CDC provides a comprehensive list of LGBTQ+-friendly health clinics across the country here.

Wait, pregnancy?!

When you think about LGBTQ+ women’s health issues, pregnancy concerns may be furthest from your mind. After all, two women can’t conceive, right? However, do note that trans women are women too, and they may still possess the equipment necessary to make someone pregnant.

Also, just because a woman identifies as LGBTQ+, doesn’t mean they don’t have sex with cis-gender men. Therefore, a woman who has intimate relationships with someone who may be able to get her pregnant should take the same precautions as cis-gender, straight women. This may mean taking hormonal birth control pills, using condoms, or getting an IUD device.

LGBTQ+ women can get STIs too!

There has been much focus on gay men and the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 80s. While health education for gay men is immensely important, sadly, less focus has been put on LGBTQ+ women’s health.

Some women assume that by having sex with other women, less bodily fluids are exchanged and therefore the risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is low. Unfortunately, this is not true. For example, HPV is common among women who have sex with women, as this virus can spread through skin-to-skin contact. Bacterial vaginosis is also more common among women who have sex with women than women who have sex with men. Untreated bacterial vaginosis may increase your risk of other STDs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and even HIV.

To help prevent these diseases from spreading, apply the following safer sex habits:

  • Use barriers like dental dams and gloves.
  • Put condoms on shared penetrative sex toys.
  • Wash sex toys thoroughly before sharing them, and wash your hands as well.
  • Get screened for STIs frequently.
  • Let medical staff know you have sex with women.

Trans Healthcare

Trans women have unique health needs that may require specialized care. For example, the hormones they use to transition can interact harmfully with medications, and what’s more, trans folks are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Furthermore, transitioning itself is a complex medical process that requires a lot of time, care, and often times, money. Unfortunately, not transitioning can be extremely distressing.

If you identify as trans, it’s important that you find a health-care provider you trust to discuss this issue openly. You can learn more about health insurance and trans health here. Be aware that some insurance providers do not cover services related to trans healthcare and that you have the right to report discrimination to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Woman Wearing Blue Mortarboard Cap Standing Near Woman Wearing Blue Jacket

Mental Healthcare

Systemic discrimination can put an immense strain on the mental health of any LGBTQ+ individual. Moreover, many LGBTQ+ individuals come from other minority groups. They are people of color, have disabilities, or deal with limited financial resources.

Furthermore, as an LGBTQ+ woman, you’re not exempt from problems that plague everyone else. This includes moving out for the first time, toxic or abusive relationships, and mental illness.

Social isolation is another problem. Those who are estranged from homophobic or transphobic family and friends can lack important social supports.

A Word about Domestic Violence

The stereotype that women don’t fight physically like men creates the wrong belief that women-only relationships don’t experience domestic violence. In fact, health-care providers may fail to ask about this. So if you have an abusive partner, be aware that you too can access women’s shelters, and make sure your health-care provider knows.

If you’re struggling, you deserve mental health support, even if it’s just a chat with a compassionate ear. Good places to start include the LGBT National Help Center hotline or the LGBT National Youth Talkline. The Association of LGBTQ+ Psychiatrists can also help you find an LGBTQ+-friendly mental health professional.

We’ve come a long way.

Despite the obvious shortcomings still pervasive in the health-care system, LGBTQ+ women’s health and women’s health in general has improved drastically in recent decades. From Sappho to Stonewall, we’ve come a long way. Hopefully, more positive changes will come at the other end of the rainbow.

Person Holding Multicolored Heart Decor