Lesbian Health Matters: A Pap Test Education Campaign Nearly Thwarted by Discrimination

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Abstract

The Pap test detects cell changes in the cervix that can be treated, preventing cancer from developing. Regular screening reduced cervical cancer deaths by 70% since 1950. Lesbians may not be adequately screened because of a misperception that they do not need Pap tests. The “Lesbian Health Matters” public and provider education campaign was implemented to address this problem. Paid advertisements were placed on two radio stations and in four newspapers. After 1 week, both radio stations cancelled the ads due to listener complaints about hearing the word “lesbian” on the radio. The community responded to this discriminatory action by demanding the campaign be completed, creating publicity that increased the campaign’s reach to 34% of women in the region. A training program was implemented reaching 219 providers. Thirty-two hundred health providers were surveyed regarding lesbianfriendly practice. A database of 293 providers was created and 120 referrals made.

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