How To Talk To Your Partner About STIs And STD's,
Because It's A Conversation Everyone Needs To Have
It might not be enjoyable to broach the subject of STD's and STI's with a new partner, but it's definitely something everyone should do before having sex. And I have good news about this potentially awkward topic, too You probably already know what STD's and STI's are, but it can't hurt to brush up on it again, so let's take a second to do that. An STD is a sexually transmitted disease, which differs from an STI, a sexually transmitted infection.
The disease/infection distinction is important here, as many STIs come with no symptoms, but are also more
easily treated than STD's; either way, though, let's also take the opportunity to remind ourselves that we don't want to reinforce STD or STI stigma. Not only are these stigmas damaging, but moreover, they're not illustrative of reality: According to the American Sexual Health Association, more than half of us will get an STI at some point in our lives. It's not something to stigmatize; it's just part of life and sex.
Most of the misconceptions surrounding STIs could be solved if people talked about them more openly and frequently. But according to a recent Cosmopolitan.com survey of 1,454 Millennial's, that’s not something most people are doing. Nearly half of all respondents said none of their past partners had ever asked about STI test results before having sex, and when they happen, most of those conversations are initiated by women. Given that many STIs can cause serious long-term side effects like infertility, “it’s just too awkward!” is no longer a valid excuse for avoiding a conversation about testing with new partners.
The best time to talk about getting tested is BEFORE you start having sex (including oral sex). Getting tested with a new partner is super important and one of the best ways to prevent STD's/STI's. It’s totally normal for the conversation to feel a little awkward, but you’ll feel better once you get it over with. It is a sensitive subject for most and may result in hurt feelings or other emotions. Some may take the request the wrong way and assume their partner believes they are dirty or sleep around. However, if a person clearly communicates the reasons for wanting their partner to be tested, and get tested with their partner, the conversation may go a lot smoother.
Getting tested for STD's/STI's isn’t about cheating or not trusting your partner. People can have an STD for years and not know it — most people with STD's don’t have any symptoms, and testing is the only way to know for sure if someone has an STD. So getting tested regularly just makes sense. You can say that you want to get tested because you care about your health AND their health. And you never know — your partner might be glad you brought it up.
So, why is this necessary conversation that shouldn’t be a big deal still such a big deal for so many of us? We easily talk about our colds, infections, and other illnesses all day long but, when it comes to our sexual health, we run for the hills.
This awkwardness around sexual health has been going on for centuries. I wish I could say things were improving with the millennials. Even if sex education is still archaic in many school systems, with the plethora of sex, love, and relationship information on the internet and social media they should be the generation of safe sex.
To help ease some of the anxiety about bringing up STI/STD testing with partners, and to hopefully get more men to initiate the conversation from time to time, here, experts offer some of their best advice on how
you can talk about STIs without feeling awkward
1. Make Sure You're Up To Date,
Before you talk to your partner about their sexual health status, make sure you know yours. If you haven't been tested, you need to be, since many people have STD's or STI's and don't even realize it. Many people believe that STI's are rare or that you can only acquire them from “sleeping around.” However, STIs are actually more common than one may think. For example, there were 1.5 million cases of chlamydia reported in the Global News Between 1998 and 2015 (the most recent national data available), chlamydia — the most commonly reported STI in Canada — has risen from 39,372 to 116,499 annual cases among all ages and genders, and gonorrhea infections increased from 5,076 to 19,845 in the same time period. Infectious syphilis rates rose dramatically from 501 to 4,551 cases, which is doubly shocking considering experts say it was nearly eradicated in North America 10 years ago. STIs can also be transferred in a single sexual encounter. Due to the prevalence of STIs and the ease of spreading them during sexual contact, it is essential to get tested and to communicate with one’s partner about sexual health before the encounter occurs. Although it may feel uncomfortable to bring up this topic, it is a vital conversation that does not have to be difficult if both partners are honest and open.
2. Do It Early,
I mean talking about it, and by early, I mean before sex," you shouldn't do it while you're laying in bed making out, either. Ideally, this conversation should take place outside of the bedroom. Doing this is not only a great way to show this conversation respect, but to also lessens your own risk. Informed, responsible sex is good sex.
To start the conversation, you can disclose to your partner the last time you were tested for STI/STD and if the test revealed any positive results. You can then ask them about their previous STI/STD testing experience.
Once you have established when you and your partner were last tested and how many partners you both have had since then, you can have a better idea of how safe it is to engage in sexual contact. However, it is
important to remember that it can take up to six months for some STI/STD to show up positive (such as HIV), so tests may not be fully accurate if you or your partner have not abstained from sexual activity for at least
six months. This means that in order to avoid STI/STD transmission, you must use condoms or other barrier methods when engaging in sexual activities that may put you at risk for contracting an STI/STD until six months have passed and you both have been tested.
3. If you currently have or have had an STI/STD, have some information handy.
**If you've had and been treated for an STI/STD, odds are you're way more knowledgeable about it than someone who hasn't. Coming into a conversation with a partner with that knowledge handy not only helps you take better care of yourself but can help put them at ease. Many STI's can be easily cured with medicine. There are also treatments for the STI's that can’t be cured, which can help with symptoms and lower your chances of giving it to your partner.
4. Use protection.
Dental dams, Dental dams,!Condoms, condoms, condoms! They work. They are easily accessible and, oh yeah, they help with not getting pregnant too.
How do I talk to my partner about my test results?
It’s no fun to tell the person you’re dating that you have an STI/STD. But it’s the right thing to do, and it helps them stay healthy. It’s really important to also tell your past partners, so they can get tested, too.
There’s no one right way to talk to your partners about having an STI/STD, but here are some basic tips that might help:
Try to stay calm and remember that you’re not the only one dealing with this. *Millions of people have STI/STD, and plenty of them are in relationships. Try to go into the conversation with a calm, positive attitude. Make it clear to your partner that you are not judging their past sexual history or accusing them of sleeping around. Communicate that you want to get tested because you care about your own sexual health and that of your partner. Having an STI/STD is simply a health issue, and it doesn’t mean anything about you as a person.
*Know your facts. *There are a lot of myths about STI/STD's out there, so read up on the facts and be ready to answer your partner’s questions. Let your partner know there are medicines that can cure or help treat your STI/STD. Safer sex can also help protect your partner. Be honest with your partner about your own history of STI’s. If you have an STI/STD, it is essential that you disclose this so you and your partner can take the proper steps to ensure both of your safety. It may feel scary or embarrassing to reveal your STI/STD, but your partner should always be kind and reassuring. It is never shameful to have an STI/STD. However, it is unfair to withhold this information from your partner because you could be putting them at risk.
*Think about timing.* Pick a time when you won’t be distracted or interrupted, and choose a place that’s private and relaxed. If you’re nervous, you can practice out loud to yourself or a friend you trust. It may sound strange, but practicing saying the words can help you figure out exactly what you want to say and feel more confident when you talk to your partner.
Do not feel pressured to engage in sexual activity with a partner who is unwilling to get tested or discuss sexual health with you. Any potential partner has a responsibility to collaborate with you when it comes to safety and getting tested. Someone who is unwilling to take these steps is most likely not responsible enough to be sexually active.
*Safety first.* If you’re afraid that your partner might hurt you, you’re probably better off with an e-mail, text, or phone call. Call 1-800-799-SAFE or go to the National Domestic Violence Hotline website <http://www.thehotline.org/> for help if you think you might be in danger.
Try not to play the blame game when you talk to your partner. If one of you tests positive during your relationship, it doesn’t automatically mean that somebody cheated. It can take a while for STI/STD's to show up on a test, and most people don’t have any symptoms. So lots of people have an STI/STD for a long time (even years) without knowing it, and it can be hard to tell when and how someone got it. The most important thing is that you both get tested