Asking a partner to be tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) can be a difficult conversation to have. It is a sensitive subject for most and may result in hurt feelings or other emotions. Some may take the request the wrong way and assume their partner believes they are dirty or sleep around. However, if a person clearly communicates the reasons for wanting their partner to be tested, and get tested with their partner, the conversation may go a lot smoother. A person may demonstrate that they are looking out for their own safety as well as the safety of their partner.
Why It Is Important To Get Tested
Many people believe that STIs are rare or that you can only acquire them from “sleeping around.” However, STIs are actually more common than one may think. For example, there were 1.5 million cases of chlamydia reported in the United States in 2016, a 4.7% increase from the previous year.1 STIs can also be transferred in a single sexual encounter. Due to the prevalence of STIs and the ease of spreading them during sexual contact, it is essential to get tested and to communicate with one’s partner about sexual health before the encounter occurs. Although it may feel uncomfortable to bring up this topic, it is a vital conversation that does not have to be difficult if both partners are honest and open.
Points to Discuss
To start the conversation, you can disclose to your partner the last time you were tested for STIs and if the test revealed any positive results. You can then ask them about their previous STI testing experience. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that sexually active individuals get tested for STIs at least once a year. Tests should be administered more frequently for people who have unprotected sex or share injection drug equipment. Additionally, men who have sex with men are recommended to be tested more frequently for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).2
Once you have established when you and your partner were last tested and how many partners you both have had since then, you can have a better idea of how safe it is to engage in sexual contact. However, it is important to remember that it can take up to six months for some STIs to show up positive (such as HIV), so tests may not be fully accurate if you or your partner have not abstained from sexual activity for at least six months. This means that in order to avoid STI transmission, you must use condoms or other barrier methods when engaging in sexual activities that may put you at risk for contracting an STI until six months has passed and you both have been tested.
Tips for Communicating With Your Partner
Effective, honest, and open communication is one of the most important foundations of a relationship. The following list details some tips on how to communicate about STIs and testing:
- Make it clear to your partner that you are not judging their past sexual history or accusing them of sleeping around. Communicate that you want to get tested because you care about your own sexual health and that of your partner, not because you think they are “dirty.”
- If you are both due for a screening, offer to go together to get tested so your partner knows that you are serious about your own sexual health and want both of you to be as safe and healthy as possible.
- Be honest with your partner about your own history of STI’s. If you have an STI, it is essential that you disclose this so you and your partner can take the proper steps to ensure both of your safety. It may feel scary or embarrassing to reveal your STI, but your partner should always be kind and reassuring. It is never shameful to have an STI. However, it is unfair to withhold this information from your partner because you could be putting them at risk.
- Do not feel pressured to engage in sexual activity with a partner who is unwilling to get tested or discuss sexual health with you. Any potential partner has a responsibility to collaborate with you when it comes to safety and getting tested. Someone who is unwilling to take these steps is most likely not responsible enough to be sexually active.
If getting tested for STIs is a topic you are afraid to bring up with your partner, these communication strategies may help you feel more comfortable and confident going into the conversation.
Before engaging in sexual contact, it is essential to get tested for STIs and make sure your partner has gotten tested as well. Being aware of your own health status and that of your partner will increase the trust and comfort between you and your partner. As long as you communicate effectively with your partner, your sexual encounters can be both safe and enjoyable.
- “2016 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Sept. 2017.
- “STD & HIV Screening Recommendations.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 Apr. 2017.
Last Updated: 31 October 2017.