When’s the last time you had “the talk”? No I’m not referring to the “what are we?” talk, but the “when’s the last time you’ve been tested?” talk. Some may be familiar with it, but for many this talk happens on the later end, than prior. Why is it that we seem to be okay with talking about everything else involving sex, except for when it’s involving out sexual health? When in reality if we aren’t comfortable talking about or at least with your partner, you probably shouldn’t be having relations with them in the first place. So whether you’re starting a new relationship or you’ve been in one for a while here’s a helpful guide to having “the talk.”
Think about it when’s the last time you’ve been tested? Do you even remember? Have you ever been tested? Truth is if you are a sexually active person in a relationship or not you should get tested. Whether you have symptoms or not, many STDs/STIs go on without symptoms and not all doctors test you for STDs without you asking for tests. Even still some like the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) are undetectable unless you have a pap smear. Even if you do have “safe sex” aka using condoms there are still some STDs that can be passed through skin-to-skin contact, so there is still a chance you can get infected. So if you’re the type to wait to get tested when their partner tells them they are infected, if they even tell you, it might be time to make some changes. Why wait when there’s a possibility of treatment with some, sustainability with others, and take preventive methods instead of waiting till it turns into possible infertility or cervical cancer, if caught too late. Why not know for the sake of your own well-being.
Often as women we place the responsibility of carrying condoms on our male partners. While in some ways it is good because if he has condoms, chances are at least you know he’s using them. However, as a grown woman there is no shame in carrying your own condoms and having some as back up. One of the oldest tricks in the game some men will use in the heat of passion is the “Oh I don’t have any condoms on me”, so don’t be shy to whip out your own or tell him to run to the nearest 24 hour convenience store. Now as you all know condoms aren’t 100% effective and they can break. If you have decided to take that step with partner and decide not use condoms there are still many other forms of contraceptives, that although they won’t protect you from diseases, they will help prevent pregnancy, if used correctly. Even still every birth control isn’t for everybody, so it is best to talk to your doctor about the right birth control fit for you and your lifestyle.
As with any topic society usually places a double standard with women, how women decide to protect themselves is included. So while some may see a woman who carries protection as [insert whatever word used for a loose woman] that’s not usually the case. I see a woman carrying condoms as a woman in control of her sex life (and her life in general). Just because you have them doesn’t mean you’re doing it with everybody or you have something. The same with birth control, many women use birth control for various reasons, some for protection, to regulate their menstrual cycles, to alleviate the pain during some cycles, etc. Just because you’re on birth control doesn’t mean you’re having sex or having unprotected sex. Even having an STD/STI has a stigma. Just because a person has/had one doesn’t mean their nasty, cheating or sleeping with tons of people. All it takes is having sex with one person, one time who is infected and BOOM!!! The way some of these STDs/STIs are step up now-a-days they can be passed while wearing a condom and some can lie dormant for a while and be present with no symptoms at all. Also if you are a woman in a same-sex relationship, it is still important for you to get tested and get regular pap smears as well, as many STDs/STIs are passable for you too!
How to bring it up in Conversation
So I know bringing up your sexual health and history can be uncomfortable, but it is a talk that is needed.
- We need to start asking the “right” questions. Instead of asking “how many people have you slept with?” ask “when’s the last time you were tested?” The quantity of people you slept with doesn’t tell me anything but numbers. Knowing numbers doesn’t dictate if you used protection, if you have been tested, or if you have/had anything. So whether your number is low or high that doesn’t mean that you are immune to anything.
- Be honest and respectful. If your partner is honest enough to have this conversation, not just buzz over it, you both owe each other honesty and to not be judgmental. While I know it may be hard to hear and talk about certain things, it’s a conversation that is needed. If you find out your partner hasn’t been tested in a while suggest getting tested together. There are many places that offer free testing; there are also places that offer more privacy for testing for additional fees, as well as at home test, so there is no excuse not to know your status.
- Just because you might not have been as responsible with your sex life before, does not mean it’s too late to start now. When you know better, you do better! If you do happen to test positive, it is not the end of the world. Find out if there’s treatment if it is curable or see what you need to do to maintain your health if it’s not. However, always be honest with your partner and never hide if you happen to have something. Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot, wouldn’t you want to know if the person you were getting intimate with had something. Give that person that choice if they want to put their self at risk or not. Also just because that person might not doesn’t mean someone else won’t as there are many manageable STDs/STIs. Also honesty and open conversation is key to having a healthy and positive relationship.
For more information on where to get tested visit: Your local Health Department or plannedparenthood.org
Image Credit: https://joshuadweiss.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/lets-talk-about-sex-baby/