When it comes to un-sexy conversation topics, STI checks are right up there with debt and tax returns. Nothing kills the mood quite like asking your partner “Hey, do you have herpes?” That said, it also happens to be an extremely important conversation. Research shows that 44% of men and 30% of women have never had an STI check. If your partner hasn’t been tested recently (or at all!) you could be unwittingly putting yourself at risk of a range of sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Yep, while talking about STIs isn’t sexy, actually having one is even less so—and can lead to serious health issues.
The good news is, asking your partner to get checked doesn’t necessarily have to be awkward or lead to an argument. Whether you’re in a serious relationship or are just casually sleeping together, here are 6 tips for talking to a new partner about sexual health checks.
Timing and location are everything when it comes to this conversation. You don’t want to try to talk to them about STIs while they’re half paying attention (like, when they’re watching their favourite show), when they’ve had a stressful day or when you’re out in public. A great time to mention it is when you’ve just finished doing the deed (not immediately afterwards, give it at least 10 minutes!). Not only will you both be feeling more relaxed, but it’s a more relevant time to bring it up and won’t feel like it’s just come out of nowhere.
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A great, non-threatening way to bring up STI checks is to casually mention that you’re going to get one. It may not have even occurred to your partner to go get one, so bringing it up will put it at the forefront of their mind. Better yet, why not ask if they want to go together? It may not be the most romantic date, but it’ll give you both peace of mind and you can turn it into an occasion by going to do something fun afterwards.
If you haven’t had the “How many people have you slept with?” or “Are you sleeping with other people?” conversations, now is not the time to do it. And if you’re in a monogamous relationship and suspect your partner is cheating, you definitely want to have that conversation first. You want to keep this conversation to the point — “When did you last have an STI health check and if not recently, can you go and get one?”—not turn into an argument about their sexual history.
While it can be tempting to take the easy way out and mention it via a text message, this isn’t the best idea. Without body language and tone of voice, things are more likely to be misinterpreted via text and your partner may think you’re accusing them of cheating. Plus, it’s easier for them to forget or ignore it if you do it this way, As awkward as it can be, this is one conversation that is best had in person.
Your partner may come back to you with something along the lines of “Oh, but I had an STI check 2 years ago” or “I don’t have any symptoms.” It’s important to arm yourself with all the facts before you have this conversation, so you can ensure you’ve got everything covered. For instance, anyone who is sexually active should be having STI checks at least once a year, as well as any time they’ve had unprotected sex or have a new sexual partner. Also, Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea and HPV are all examples of STIs that often have no initial symptoms. This is a great resource to brush up on your knowledge.
If your partner has had unprotected sex and refuses to get an STI check, it’s a red flag. Not only is it a sign that they don’t take your wellbeing (and their own!) seriously, we’re sorry to say it could be a sign that they’re hiding something. No is not an option in this situation, and you need to be prepared to walk away if they don’t play ball. No sex is good enough to put your own health at risk!