Being open to discuss sexual health is not something we are usually taught to do, but it’s an important part of taking care of ourselves and others. It’s vital to break down the taboo around the topic. The unnecessary shame and stigma linked with STDs only prevents people from getting treatment, and can have a huge impact on our health.
Getting tested on a regular basis is very important
Many STDs can be asymtomatic, that means that you won't realize you have it. Also, some take up to months to show up, but you can still pass them although there are no visible symptoms.
If your test comes back negative, great! It is still important to talk to your partners about their sexual health and safer sex.
In case you tested positive, the next steps will serve as a guide to deal with the subject.
Don't believe everything you hear about STDs
There are many 'urban myths' about STDs. Just do some reasearch, you can trust official sources, visit your doctor. Most of the STDs can be treated succesfully, so it is important you visit your doctor and you get treated.
The key is to take responsibility about your STD, inform yourself on how the symptoms look like and how to avoid passing it on.
First things first, here is a list on how to approach the topic and talk to your partner.
1. Talk to your partner before having any contact
Before you start having any type of sex (vaginal, anal, oral) is the perfect time to talk about this. You might have to talk to your partner before that, for instance in the case of oral herpes, it is good you discuss this before kissing.
Talking to your partner about your sexual history and asking about theirs allows you to find out if your partner has or has had an STD, and gives both of you the chance to make an informed decision on how and what type of sex you want to have.
It doesn't matter if it is a casual or a serious relationship. No reason to feel ashamed, it is very important to communicate.
2. Get ready for the talk
Think on how you would like to communicate, but also bear in mind people have different reactions to the topic. So pick a place, or a way to do it in which you feel comfortable with it. Some people like to get it over soon, but others prefer to go on a few dates and get to know the person first—it’s up to you, and also depends on how soon you want to have sex.
3. Be ready for a transparent discussion
Some people introduce the topic by asking their partner about their sexual health history, and if they ever had an STD or currently have one. Others prefer just to tell their partners that they have an STD, and ask if they have any questions. It may be a good idea to go over what it means, in terms of safer sex precautions or medication.
It’s totally normal to feel a bit awkward at first, but you’ll feel relief once you have done it. And your partner will probably be grateful that you brought it up.
This opportunity is also a chance for you to learn more about your partner’s sexual history. Here are some questions people usually ask,
Your partner or date might not be completely honest about their STD status, but at least you asked. Many people also report that the partner's reaction to discussing this topic is helps you get to know them better.
4. Prepare for different reactions
In the case of communicating that you have an STD, your partner might thank you for letting them know, reassuring that their feelings towards you have not changed, and be glad and impress for the fact that you brought up that topic.
There is also the possibility they don't take so well. They might express disbelief, or be afraid. It’s possible they could be judgmental or express rejection. Always remember that these types of responses are giving you information about them, and not about you.
If you’re not happy with their reaction, remember you are free to choose whatever you want to do about the realtionship, date, etc.
5. You did it! Be proud!
Opening up and share something as personal as your sexual history is can make you feel scared or vulnerable . It’s not an easy conversation to have, but is very important to be proud about taking this step, no matter what the reaction of your partner is.