Sex-disease clinic for lesbians opens

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(First Edition)

BRITAIN'S first sexually-transmitted diseases clinic for lesbians opens today, in response to concerns that some women fail to seek medical advice because of doctors' assumptions about their sexuality, writes Judy Jones.

Since the weekly clinic at the Charing Cross Hospital in London opened on a trial basis in April, more than 100 lesbians have attended, from as far afield as Manchester and Birmingham, and sessions are fully booked until November.

Dr Jayne Kavanagh, who works in the genito-urinary department, founded the clinic. She and Sandy Nelson, a health adviser, will run it with nursing staff. 'It's been a great success,' Dr Kavanagh said. 'When women go to their GP about a genito-urinary problem, the doctor assumes they are heterosexual and starts asking them questions about their sexual activities, whether they are on the pill and so on. For some women, it's difficult for them to tell the doctor they are lesbian. It's much easier for them to come here for advice and treatment because they know they will not be asked awkward questions about their sexuality.'

Lesbians suffer from sexually transmitted diseases in the same way as heterosexuals, although infection rates are far lower.

Judy Hague, who manages genito-urinary services for the Riverside Health Authority, said: 'The clinic has spread awareness of lesbian issues among all clinic staff, and we hope to spread the word to other health professionals.'