Sexual health services may seem to be aimed at men or women only, but it is equally important to maintain good sexual health if you are transgender. The BBC recently reported that the UK is a “long way from transgender equality” and the Minister for Women and Equalities said she was “determined to tackle discrimination wherever it existed.” There has been little research into the sexual health issues that transgender people face in the UK, but one report from 2014 identified issues in accessing healthcare, including problems created by GPs’ recording of gender and patients being “either never invited or repeatedly invited for inappropriate tests.” The same report also indicated a “persistent stigma and discrimination that increases [the] risk for HIV infection”.
If you are trans then it is not only HIV you need to stay alert about; all sexual activity produces a risk of infection – for any gender. Regular STI screening is very important, but if you are a trans woman you may still have a prostate present and should also have regular prostate checks. For trans men who may still have a cervix, full STI screens are recommended as well as HPV and Smear Tests to ensure you are not at risk of cervical cancer.
For trans men, the flexibility and size of the vagina may reduce with the use of testosterone and this may cause worry about potential discomfort during the cervical smear process. However, the speculum (the device used to help the clinician look inside the vagina) comes in a range of sizes so smear tests can and should still be carried out. Also, when the level of oestrogen in the body is reduced, the walls of the vagina can get thinner which may also happen in the rectum. This thinning can result in very small tears happening during sex therefore increasing the risk of a sexually transmitted infection. For both trans men and trans women, recent lower body surgery can also leave the body more vulnerable to infection with a possibility of bleeding.
Better2Know appreciates that flexibility and sensitivity are very important if you are trans and we offer a comprehensive range of testing options. This includes a home testing option and discreet and confidential appointments UK-wide for a range of STIs. Please call us with your requirements; our friendly team are here to help you choose the most suitable tests for you.