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I’m a girl who has sex with other girls. I never thought much about STIs, but am I at risk?

Dear Student,
If you’re a human who has sex with other humans, you’re at risk for an STI. That said, the sexual health world– specifically in STI prevention– does a major disservice to women who have sex with other women (WSW).
More often than not, neglecting these sexual relationships in the discussion of safe sex. Just as between partners of the opposite sex, manual and oral stimulation, as well as stimulation with a sex toy, all carry risks for potential STI infection.
Gonorrhea, hepatitis B, syphilis and HIV are STIs that are less common among WSW.
Not all WSW have had sex with men at some point in their life, so if you or your partner has ever had sex with a man, particularly unprotected sex, you could have an STI that hasn’t shown symptoms, but can still be transmissible. If you’ve never been tested, do so.
WSW are at risk, however, for bacterial vaginosis, chlamydia, genital herpes, HPV, public lice and trichomoniasis. Finger condoms and dental dams can reduce the risk of infection, as well as using a condom with sex toys (and cleaning sex toys).
Some of these are curable and while others  are treatable, but not curable. Just as I would suggest for anyone, I recommend getting tested regularly – like when you have unprotected sex with someone whose history you don’t know – and to talk about your STI and testing history with your partners.
As always, visit the CWU Student Medical and Counseling Clinic or Planned Parenthood in Ellensburg for more information on risk, testing and preventative measures.
Some practitioners educate through a heteronormative lens (i.e. assume everyone is straight), so if you’re a WSW and they ask you how many men you’ve had sex with in the last year, speak up! Tell ‘em none because you have sex with women and you’ve had sex with X women in the last year. If they ask you if you need condoms without knowing who you have sex with, or the kinds of sex you have, speak up! Tell ‘em you need dental dams!

How can I tell someone the truth without hurting their feelings?

Dear Student,
Like the old adage goes, the truth hurts. And you know what, I think that’s ok. I think in today’s climate we’re overly cautious about making others feel “uncomfortable.”
If someone is doing something offensive or otherwise inappropriate and it’s negatively affecting you, tell them so.
There’s a vast difference between telling someone “the truth” maliciously, with the intent to hurt their feelings (i.e. the unsolicited “those pants make you look fat”) and being honest, even when it might be unfavorable (i.e. friend: “Do these pants make me look fat?” You: “They aren’t the most flattering cut on you.”)
Without knowing what “truth” you’re afraid of telling that might hurt someone’s feelings, I’ll give two general pointers. First, is this solicited? Did the person ask your opinion? If they did, find a constructive way of dishing out the truth.
Be honest – “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but there’s something I need to tell you.”
Secondly, consider your intention. Why do you want disclose this potentially hurtful information? Would you want to know this information if you were in their shoes? If so, open it that way. “This might hurt your feelings, but if the roles were reversed, I would want you to tell me.”
In open and honest relationships, sometimes we hurt feelings or offend someone we care about, but there’s no sense in letting something eat away at you to spare someone else. Good luck!

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