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How Do You Talk To Your Partners About HIV/AIDS and Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)?

January 2010

There is no easy answer concerning how to talk to a partner about HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Although many people find it easy to have sex, they find it extremely difficult to talk about it. So how does one begin?

The dynamics of every relationship are a little bit different. The most important thing is to talk about STDs before having sex. But many people feel too embarrassed or scared to do this, or do not have the necessary communication skills it takes to talk about it. Most of the time, a person simply has to muster up enough courage to bring up the subject.

However, some people are just too scared to bring up the subject altogether, for fear of a partner rejecting them by the mere mention of the terms "sexually transmitted diseases" or "HIV/AIDS." Keep in mind that if your partner breaks up with you because you have brought up the subject of sexually transmitted diseases, then there was not much keeping the relationship together in the first place! Also, there is only one way to know your partner's HIV/AIDS and other STD risk factors, and that is to directly ask.

Let me make the following suggestions on how to bring up this topic:

  1. Read up on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The more you know about this topic, the easier it will be to talk to your partner. (Check out The Body's information on Safer Sex/Prevention, particularly The Link Between HIV and Other STDs from the Centers for Disease Control.

  2. It is crucial to talk about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases before you have sex. If you wait until afterwards, it will be much more difficult to bring up the subject. The time to start talking about sexually transmitted diseases is when you start feeling the emotional urge to have sex with someone.

  3. Talk about HIV/STDs in a quiet, one-to-one setting. For example, you may want to talk about it while on a date or while taking a walk.

  4. Expect your partner to get defensive about this subject. They may find the subject just as hard to talk about, perhaps even more so than you. Explain that you are discussing this subject as a way to protect your health as well as theirs. Tell them how much you care about them!

  5. Do not interrogate or interview your partner about their risk factors for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Rather, discuss your own risk factors first. Then ask about theirs. This will often make it easier for them to talk about their own risks, after you talk about yours. Try to make it as relaxed a conversation as possible.

  6. If you don't know how to bring up the subject of HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases, then bring it up when it's mentioned in the news or on the television. Another suggestion is to surf the net, and take them to The Body's Forum on Safe Sex and HIV Prevention.

  7. If you start having sex with someone, and you notice a symptom which may be an STD (unusual growths or lesions, an unusual discharge, etc.), tell your partner immediately! He or she may get very defensive and upset. This is normal. But point out the symptoms, and explain to them you are mentioning it only because you are concerned about their health.

  8. Consider getting tested with your partner for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases before having sex. Call it a "ritual of modern dating" if you wish. Getting tested together takes away some of the pressure of your partner getting tested, since you are getting tested yourself as well.

  9. It's best to talk with your partner about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases when both of you are sober and in a relatively good mood.

  10. Discuss this subject in person. I do not suggest that you talk about it over the phone, by e-mail, by instant message (IM), text or by letter. The personal touch can really make a difference here!
In summary, discussing HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (or any sexual issue for that matter) can be extremely difficult. But talking about this issue ahead of time is crucial. It's part of learning more about your partner and taking care of yourself, and it's an important part of every relationship.

Do you want more information on AIDS, STDs or safer sex? Contact the U.S. Centers for Disease Control HealthLine at 1-800-232-4636.

Until next time . . . Work hard, play hard, play safe, stay sober!



  
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This article was provided by Rick Sowadsky, M.S.P.H..
 
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