Health Library

Let's Talk About Sex (and STDs)


Are you totally comfortable becoming physically intimate with a new partner or do you have nagging doubts about sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? How can you bring up the subject without ruining the mood?

The best time to bring up the subject of HIV or other STDs is not when you and a new partner about to have sex for the first time. If you and your partner had already discussed this, you might just relax and enjoy the experience. If you have not talked it through and you do go ahead with sex, you may have an experience that is less than perfect.

Open communication with a partner before you have sex is essential. Of course, talking about sexual issues is never easy. However, it is less difficult when you take the time to get to know your partner and not rush into sex.

Talking About STDs

So how do you broach the subject of STDs? It may be easier than you imagine. Many people find it a relief when their partner brings up the subject since it is a concern for most people. It shows that you care about your own health and your partner's.

Start by telling your partner how you feel about STDs and your experiences. You might say something like "It is gotten very complicated to be close to people these days. I feel really concerned about it so I have gotten tested for HIV and other STDs. What do you think about it? What have you done?" Or you could comment that you find it scary that people on TV and movies still seem to be jumping into bed without using protection and ask your date what they think.

If your date indicates that he or she is not being responsible in regard to STDs, you may want to rethink your relationship. Even if a partner assures you that he or she is careful, you cannot depend on that. You do not know his or her partners' sexual histories. The most prudent solution is for both partners to get tested for HIV and STDs before becoming intimate. Testing is readily available through your doctor or at clinics. You can choose to get an anonymous HIV test if confidentiality is a concern. You can also be tested for many STDs, like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and hepatitis B.

Home test kits are available for HIV and hepatitis B. Make sure you know the risks and benefits of home testing and follow instructions carefully. Information on home test kits can be found at the US Food and Drug Administration website. Keep in mind that when you get your test results, you should discuss them with your doctor, regardless of the results.

Practicing "Safer Sex"

Even when we know better, we may still succumb to temptation and jump into bed with someone we do not know well. In that case, you should absolutely practice "safer sex," since any exchange of many types of bodily fluids is not entirely safe. Using a latex condom properly can help prevent HIV and other STDs. Men should remove the condom in a way that it prevents fluids from touching their partner.

It's important to keep in mind, too, that condoms do not offer full protection against STDs like genital herpes or genital warts. This is because a condom leaves part of the genital area exposed, and this exposure to your partner's skin may infect you.

If you do have an STD, you will need to tell your potential partners.

RESOURCES:

American Social Health Association
http://www.ashastd.org

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
http://www.sieccan.org

Sexuality and U—The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
http://www.sexualityandu.ca

References:

Home use kits. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/InVitroDiagnostics/HomeUseTests/default.htm. Updated June 5, 2014. Accessed January 14, 2015.

Keller S. Methods work better when couples talk. Netw Res Triangle Park NC. 1996;16(3):10-11.

Sexually transmitted diseases. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 23, 2014. Accessed January 14, 2015.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-infections.html. Updated April 2014. Accessed January 14, 2015.

Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/default.htm. Updated November 8, 2012. Accessed January 14, 2015.

Talking about sex. American Sexual Health Association website. Available at: http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/sexual-health/talking-about-sex. Accessed January 14, 2015.



Last reviewed January 2015 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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