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You may hesitate to become physically intimate with a new partner due to concerns about sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It can be difficult to bring up the subject without ruining the mood.
The best time to bring up the subject of HIV or other STIs is not when you and a new partner are about to have sex for the first time. If you and your partner had already discussed this, you more likely to 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 STIs 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 STIs and your experiences. You might say something like "It has gotten complicated to be close to people these days. I feel really concerned about it so I have gotten tested for HIV and other STIs. What do you think about it? What have you done?"
If your date indicates that he or she is not being responsible in regard to STIs, 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 STIs 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 other STIs, 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.
Even when we know better, we may still succumb to temptation and have sex with someone we do not know well. In that case, you should absolutely practice "safer sex," since any exchange of bodily fluids is not entirely safe. Using a latex condom properly can help prevent HIV and other STIs. 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 STIs 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 STI, you will need to tell your potential partners.
American Social Health Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
Sexuality and U—The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
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 17, 2017.
Keller S. Methods work better when couples talk. Netw Res Triangle Park NC. 1996;16(3):10-11.
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 17, 2017.
How you can prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/default.htm. Updated March 31, 2016. Accessed January 17, 2017.
Talking about sex. American Sexual Health Association website. Available at: http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/sexual-health/talking-about-sex. Accessed January 17, 2017.
Last reviewed January 2017 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 1/14/2015