YEP Volunteer Blog Post – Anna: STI Talk 101

The decision to have sex with a new partner can be a very spontaneous one or extremely thought-out. However, regardless of the circumstances, if you have ever been in a sex ed class you know that you need to talk to your partner about STIs before you actually get on with ‘it’. When I was lectured on the topic, the only thought that went through my head was ‘yeah sure great idea, but that’s just going to be awks’. If you are a little like me and are nervous about how to talk to your partner about STIs, don’t worry too much; I can hopefully give you some handy tips that make this conversation at least a little less awkward.

I’m sure most of you already know what STIs, are but it can’t hurt to briefly refresh your knowledge! STIs are sexually transmitted infections which include chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhoea, genital warts, genital herpes, as well as HIV and hepatitis. They can be passed on to a sexual partner during vaginal, anal, and oral sex, and some of them (for example, genital herpes) even through skin to skin contact. Although, some STIs don’t cause any symptoms, they still can lead to serious complications.

Before you talk

Before you bring up the topic with your partner, make sure that you know the facts! Seeing STIs as medical problems, which have serious consequences, can be prevented and treated if they occur, makes it much easier to talk about them. Knowing what STIs exactly are and how they are transmitted does not only give you confidence, but can also help you answer questions your partner might have about the topic.

After looking into STIs, you might want to plan exactly what you want to tell your partner. This way you can make sure that you do not forget any important bits of information and you can also clarify for yourself which information you want to get from your partner.

Since it is possible that you are not aware of having an STI, ensure that you are up to date and get tested yourself. A recent test result can also be a good way to start ‘the talk’. Like, ‘Hey I just got tested for STIs last week, when did you get tested last?’. By sharing information about yourself you can make the situation less intimidating for your partner and can make clear that you are not placing any judgment on the topic.

‘The Talk’

It is important to pick a good time to talk about STIs. Find a quiet and private space where you can talk alone without being interrupted. However, do not wait until you are taking someone else’s pants off! This conversation is easier to have with your clothes on. Additionally, if you are already lying on the bed making out you might make decisions in the heat of the moment that you will regret later on.

In my opinion, the most important advice that I can give you about how to breach the topic to your partner is ‘just ask’. I know it sounds pretty lame but you are asking about someone else’s medical history, so be direct and straightforward; don’t beat around the bush.

When asking and talking about STIs, try to stay calm and present your questions and the information in a factual way. This way you avoid giving the impression that you are judgmental and instead seem like one can talk to you about any previous or current issues.

Importantly, see how your partner responds and listen to their point of view. By being an attentive listener, you show the other person respect and can get a sense for how they think about the topic.

If you yourself have or previously had an STI, have some information about it handy! Your partner will probably have some questions about it and what that means for his health, so be prepared.

However…

I’d recommend you to use a condom anyway. Condoms are the best way to guard against STIs. And the reality is your partner might be unaware of having an STI and be honest to you about his history. However, you might still be exposed to an infection.

Talking about STIs is probably not the most sexy conversation you will ever have with your partner, but it is even less sexier to discover that you have an STI after you had sex or to find out that you passed one on to someone else. It is also a good way to find out more about your relationship and to figure out whether your partner is open and willing to talk about serious but important issues. After this conversation, you might even feel closer to your partner than before 🙂

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