Let's Talk About Sex (and STDs)
Are you totally comfortable becoming physically intimate with a new partner or do you have nagging doubts about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)? How can you bring up the subject without ruining the mood?
You're 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 STDs. If you and your partner had already discussed this, you'd probably just relax and enjoy the experience. But if you've not talked it through and you do go ahead with sex, be prepared for an experience that is less than perfect.
In this age of AIDS, open communication with a lover before you have sex is essential. Of course, talking about sexual issues is never easy. But it's 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 STDs? It may be easier than you imagine. Many people find it a relief when their partner brings up the subject since it's 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 STDs and your experiences. You might say something like "It's gotten very complicated to be close to people these days. I feel really concerned about it so I've gotten tested for AIDS and other STDs. 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.
How your date responds is a telling indicator of what sort of person he or she is. If he has a tough time with self-revelation and being honest and straightforward, you can be sure that's the way the relationship will continue.
If your date indicates that he or she isn't being responsible in regard to STDs, you may want to rethink your relationship. Even if a partner assures you that he or she is careful, you can't depend on that. You don't know his or her partners' sexual histories. The most prudent solution is for both partners to get tested for AIDS and STDs before becoming intimate. Testing is readily available through your doctor or at clinics. You can choose to get an anonymous AIDS test if confidentiality is a concern. You should also be tested for herpes (HSV), chlamydia, gonorrhea, human papillomavirus (HPV), and hepatitis B.
Practicing "Safer Sex"
Even when we know better, we may still succumb to temptation and jump into bed with someone we don't 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 prevent against HIV, HSV, and other STDs. 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. Doctors suggest that people with HPV and genital herpes abstain from sex while warts and sores are present and use a condom when symptoms are not present.
It goes without saying that anyone who has HIV or HSV must tell all potential partners.
American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology
American Social Health Association
Johns Hopkins University AIDS Information Service
Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
Last reviewed May 2008 by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, 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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