Let's Talk About Sex (and STIs)
Are you totally comfortable becoming physically intimate with a new partner or do you have nagging doubts about sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? How can you bring up the subject without ruining the mood?
You are lying on the couch with a new lover getting hot and heavy, about to make the big move into the bedroom to have sex for the first time. Obviously not the best time to bring up the subject of ]]>AIDS]]> or STIs. If you and your partner had already discussed this, you would probably just relax and enjoy the experience. But if you have not talked it through and you do go ahead with sex, be prepared for an experience that is less than perfect.
Open communication with a lover before you have sex is essential. Of course, talking about sexual issues is never easy. But it is less difficult when you take the time to get to know your partner and not rush into sex.
Talking About STDs
So how do you broach the subject of STIs? It 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 any responsible person. 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 is gotten very 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?" Or you could comment that you find it scary that people on TV and movies still seem to be jumping into bed without using protection and ask your date what he or she thinks.
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 ]]>chlamydia]]>, ]]>gonorrhea]]>, syphilis, and ]]>hepatitis B]]> and hepatitis C.
Practicing "Safer Sex"
Even when we know better, we may still succumb to temptation and jump into bed 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 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.
Since genital herpes may include sores on the genitals (or may be transmitted by a partner who has no visible skin lesions but is still shedding virus), and HPV produces genital warts, both of these infections can be spread when the infected skin in the genital area of one partner rubs against the skin of the other partner. Therefore, condoms may not prevent the spread of infection.
If you do have an STI, you will need to tell your potential partners.
American Social Health Association
Johns Hopkins University AIDS Information Service
Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Male latex condoms and sexually transmitted diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/latex.htm. Updated February 2010. Accessed May 6, 2010.
US Food and Drug Administration. Vital facts about HIV home test kits. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048553.htm. Updated January 2008. Accessed May 6, 2010.
Last reviewed May 2010 by ]]>Brian Randall, MD]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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