Let's Talk about STIs

Menstuff® has compiled the following. Note: Always have a Responsible Conversation about your Sexual History BEFORE petting or engaging in oral, anal or vaginal sex.

Let's Talk about STIs

Too many teens are acquiring sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the United States. Approximately three million cases of STIs occur among teens each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Unfortunately, the main reasons teens get infected are that many don’t talk to their sexual partners about STIs, find out if their partner has ever been infected or tested, and discuss what methods of protection to use.

If you’ve been postponing the talk or are too scared to have it, try looking at the situation in a different light. Anything that places your health in danger is your business. While having sex can be a positive experience, it also carries the risk of unplanned pregnancy and STIs.

So, before you make a decision to have oral, vaginal, or anal sex with a partner, you should get all the information you need about your partner’s sexual history, including when or if he or she has been tested for STIs.

“The decision to protect yourself is a matter of accepting responsibility for yourself,” says Michael J. Basso, MPH, public health advisor for the CDC, and author of The Underground Guide to Teenage Sexuality. Talking 101

If you feel too shy to bring up the subject of STIs, remember, it’s not as scary a topic as it appears. Basso says that speaking “directly, openly, and without pointing a finger of blame or causing shame will tend to bring the best results.”

Staying relaxed and having a candid yet calm conversation with your partner will make the situation less awkward. Try starting the conversation while you’re on a nice date or going for a walk with your partner. Or, if you’re watching TV and the subject comes up, start talking about STIs then. It’s also best to talk in a quiet setting, when you’re both sober and in good moods.

If, for some reason, your partner doesn’t want to discuss STIs, maybe it’s a sign that the level of commitment and openness necessary for a healthy sexual relationship isn’t present. If that’s the case, you should reconsider the decision to become sexually active. Basso adds that if your partner is reluctant to talk about STIs, “then you have invaluable information to help you with your decision to be sexually involved with that person.”

While talking about STIs may provide vital information about a partner’s sexual history, it does not mean the risk of contracting an STI has vanished. Unfortunately, there is always the possibility that a partner does not know that he or she has an STI (since some have no symptoms), may withhold information, or may even lie about it.

Basso says that “society views being infected with an STI as being ‘unclean’ or ‘contaminated.’ Rather than be embarrassed or seen as ‘dirty’ and risk being rejected, people withhold any information that isn’t flattering.”

If teens have a lifelong STI, it doesn’t mean they’re “unclean” or “contaminated.” It just means they should take precautions before having sexual contact, just like a person without an STI should. But rather than be honest and uncomfortable, some people would jeopardize the health of their partner or even their own health.

For this reason, it’s important that you depend solely on yourself for your personal health. Whenever you’re contemplating sexual activity with a new partner, Basso suggests the following actions:

Assume the other person is infected and simply doesn’t know it, or is too embarrassed to tell you.

Get yourself tested before any type of sexual contact takes place, and suggest that your partner come with you to get tested as well.

Always reduce the risks to your health by either abstaining from sexual contact or using latex condoms correctly each and every time you engage in sexual contact.

Editors’ Note: Need to get tested for HIV and other STIs? Click here to find a clinic near you. Got questions on STIs? Call the CDC’s National STD Hotline at 1-800-227-8922 or 1-800-342-2437.

Source: by Élan Jade Jones, 17, Staff Writer, Sex Etc, www.sxetc.org/stories/genStoriesArticleDetail.asp?AID=art_1741&PID=1298  

Related Issues: General STD/STI Fast Facts, STD/STIs, Talking With Kids About Tough Issues

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