There are few topics more nerve-racking when discussing them with a new partner than sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). However, talking about STDs early in a relationship can be of great benefit to both people’s health.
Talking about STDs can happen at any time, whether it’s with your long-term partner or a new connection.
The reason to address STDs? So that you and your partner can get tested before engaging in sexual activity. (For existing partners, testing after sexual activity is better than never.)
Why test for STDs?
Learning if either of you has an STD can help prevent the disease from spreading. Because many STDs have silent symptoms, people may not know they have them.
“It’s possible to have an STD for years without developing any signs or symptoms,” says infectious disease expert Dr.
Sexually transmitted diseases include:
- genital herpes
- pubic lice (crabs)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
How to start an STD related conversation
When you talk about STDs, you’re talking about health—yours and your partner’s. Mention that many STDs are curable and can be treated with medication.
“Getting tested before becoming sexually active is one way to protect each other,” says Dr. Raof. “For those in existing relationships, treatment for potential STDs can prevent complications.”
Bring up the topic in a neutral, non-sexual moment. It’s okay to laugh at how uncomfortable the subject is while you’re talking.
Suggest testing together, or schedule separate tests. Agree to share your test results with each other before getting intimate.
You can get tested for STDs in any number of places, including:
- your doctor’s office
- A site for Planned Parenthood
- A health clinic
- An emergency center
- A pharmacy-based health clinic
- A health clinic in your county’s Department of Health
If your partner gets defensive while testing, explain that all you think about is health. You don’t need to know her dating history, and you don’t suspect infidelity.
“If someone objects or doesn’t want to be tested, that can be a red flag,” says Dr. Raof. “Disclosure of STD status should be about trust. Would you trust your well-being to someone who would not provide you with this health-related information?”
What if someone tests positive?
If you get tested, it’s possible that you or your partner will test positive. Even people who look and feel healthy can have an STD.
A positive test is not a reason to end a relationship or a sign someone has cheated. STDs can be present for years before they are discovered.
“It’s important that you tell your partner about your STD status and then seek treatment,” says Dr. Raof. “You should also let your ex-boyfriends know about your results so they can get tested too.”
Many sexually transmitted diseases can be cured with a short course of medication. To prevent a sexually transmitted disease from spreading, avoid sexual activity until you have completed treatment.
If your partner tests positive, try to be kind and compassionate, not judgmental. They were honest about their test results, and millions of Americans get STDs.
“Treat your partner with the respect you would want if you tested positive,” says Dr. Raof. “Remember STDs are a health issue, not a cause for criticism.”
Next Steps & Resources:
The material provided by HealthU is for general information only and is not a substitute for the advice of your healthcare professional. Always consult your doctor for individual treatment.