Did you know the most common symptom is no symptom at all? Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be a difficult topic to discuss with our partners. However, it’s important to talk about. While it may feel like an awkward subject, it doesn't have to be. The good news is that talking about STIs and getting tested with our partners can help improve our communication and relationship in general. Here are some tips for starting a conversation.
Take the lead
“I just wanted to let you know that I got tested for STIs last month…” is a strong start. Taking the initiative to get tested, receive treatment if necessary and know your status keeps you and your partner safe. Once you’re ready to have the conversation, you can open up by sharing your results and showing that it’s normal to get tested.
If they respond that they haven’t been tested or it’s been a while since their last checkup, encourage them to get tested, too. That way you’ll both be on the same page and have the same information. This is also a good time to remind them that getting tested doesn’t mean they have an STI, and if they do, most are curable and all are treatable. Remind them that having an STI doesn’t say anything about them; infections can happen to anyone.
Jump in together
If you haven’t been tested recently either, start a conversation with your partner about getting tested together. If you’re feeling uncomfortable about it, acknowledge the awkwardness. For instance, you can say: “This is awkward, but I think it’s time for us to get tested for STIs. Would you be willing to go together?”
This kind of conversation lets you share an awkward experience while empowering you both to take care of yourselves and each other. If your partner has been tested recently, ask them if they can provide support for you getting tested or talk about their experience so you know what to expect.
Share your results
Talking about an STI you had or have, or hearing about one from your partner, can be a stressful situation. There are a few things to keep in mind:
Start this type of conversation in a safe place where you won’t be interrupted, and practice what you’d like to say ahead of time. “I’ve had chlamydia. My doctor treated it, so I don’t have it anymore, but it made me realize we should be getting tested more often…” or “I was just diagnosed with gonorrhea and my doctor said you can also get a prescription for the same antibiotics…”
Sometimes people need time to process this type of information, and that’s okay – let them know you’d like to continue talking about it when they feel ready.
If your partner discloses an STI to you, remember these facts and consider how you’d want to be treated if you were the one in their place. Be compassionate, avoid judgment and take on your collective health together.
If you have questions or would like to get tested, Medical Services offers STI testing and other sexual and reproductive health services.
Free safer sex supplies (condoms, lubricant, etc.) are also available at Health Promotion on the third floor of Wardenburg Health Center.
For general information on sexual health and sexually transmitted infections, visit Beforeplay.org