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Sexual Health Awareness Week: #EndSmearFear campaign launched to break down stigma of smear tests


A new social media campaign has launched to combat the stigma which continues to surround smear tests.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has partnered with Twitter to launch a smear test campaign for Sexual Health Awareness Week, which takes place from Monday 16 September to Sunday 22 September.

The aim of the “#EndSmearFear campaign“, the charity explains, is to “open up conversation around topics such as vaginas, cervixes and smear tests”, and to encourage more women to speak openly about their experiences on social media.

One of the ways the campaign is promoting conversations about smear tests is by asking women to share their top tips for having a cervical screening.

Celebrities including former Love Island contestant Maura Higgins, singer Louise Redknapp and comedian and actor Lolly Adefope have tweeted in support of the campaign.

Adefope implored her Twitter followers to book a cervical screening test if they are due one and to take a loved one with them to their appointment if they are feeling nervous.

“If you’re due a test: get it booked, take someone you trust, and treat yourself about 20 times after so you have something to look forward to,” the Rovers star wrote.

Another light-hearted approach which the campaign is using to spark more open conversations about female genitalia is asking women to share what emoji they would use to refer to their vagina.

“If I were to send the aubergine emoji, you’d know what I was alluding to right? But what’s the emoji equivalent for a vagina?” Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust states, alluding to the fact that the aubergine emoji is frequently used to refer to a penis.

Higgins revealed on Twitter that her emoji of choice is a blue butterfly, while Redknapp opted for a pink flower.

The #EndSmearFear campaign has been backed by several other well-known individuals, including The Only Way Is Essex reality star Chloe Sims, sports reporter Bianca Westwood and Jameela Jamil’s I Weigh movement.

More than 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer on an annual basis, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust states.

Of that figure, more than a quarter do not survive.

Kate Sanger, head of communications at the charity, explained the impact social media can have on steering positive and supportive conversations about smear tests.

“We want to help reduce some of the fear and uncertainty around smear tests and have seen first-hand the power of social media in doing this,” Sanger said.

“We’re pleased to be working with Twitter to see smear tests, cervixes and vaginas talked about as normally as using an emoji.

“By encouraging positive conversations we hope more women will feel comfortable asking questions, know where to find support and feel able to book a test if they choose to do so.”

Kate Minshall, head of public policy at Twitter UK, said the social media platform wants people to feel “safe and supported” when they tweet about smear tests, especially considering the fact that approximately a third of women aged between 25 and 29 avoid going for their smear test.

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For everything you need to know about smear tests, click here.

To find out what happens during a cervical screening, click here.

For more information on smear tests you can call Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust free and confidential helpline on 0808 802 8000. Check the charity’s website here for helpline opening times.

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