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Talking about Sexually Transmitted Infections

Who Gets STI’s?

Well just about anyone can have an STI, the person sitting next to you, the person that just walked past you? They are no different to you or I, everyone lives their lives in the way they choose and with whom they choose. Being sexually active and having different partners’ increases your chances of an STI, being aware, practicing safe sex and being informed reduces your chances.

Talking about Sexually Transmitted Infections?

This is probably not one topic of conversation that is high on the list of “things to talk about” on your first date, but it is one that needs to be discussed maybe not on your first date but it will probably need to come up at some point, or does it? When was the last time you spoke to your partner about STI‘s? Was it before or after you had sexual intercourse? If your answer to that was I didn’t or haven’t maybe it is time to think about having that conversation. Talking about safe sex is preferable than talking about STI’s!

Statistics from the Health Protection Agency:

Statistics from the Health Protection Agency show the steady rise in STI’s over the past couple of years

  • An overall rise in the number of new diagnoses seen in GUM clinics of 3% in 2005 compared to 2004 (from 768,339 in 2004 to 790,387 in 2005)

  • Genital Chlamydia remains the most commonly diagnosed STI in GUM clinics with an increase in diagnoses of 5% (from 104,840 in 2004 to 109,832 in 2005)

  • Primary and secondary syphilis diagnoses increased by 23% (from 2278 in 2004 to 2807 in 2005)

  • Genital warts increased by 1% (from 80,082 in 2004 to 81,203 in 2005)

  • Genital herpes increased by 4% (from 19 074 in 2004 to 19,771 in 2005)

  • Gonorrhoea decreased by 13% (from 22,350 in 2004 to 19,495 in 2005). This follows the 10% decrease seen between 2003 and 2004

How to talk about STI’s:

You know about your own sexual history but, with a new partner you will want to know that what you get on the first night you have sexual intercourse is not a lot more than you bargained for. Asking outright how many sexual partners your new partner has had will not illicit the response you are looking for. It is something that you probably need to discuss prior to being in a position where it could be deemed a passion killer. Just having a condom handy or asking if someone is on the pill does not give the green light to have unprotected sex.

How to get round to the subject?  It is probably not a talk that anyone looks forward to having and in fact the thought of brining up the subject could make some avoid it all together but at what cost? Honesty and trust in a relationship is important and leading into this type of conversation is something that will be important to both of you. Practising in front of a mirror about what you want to say or how you are going to broach the subject might sound a bit daft but in fact it can help you iron out all the stammering, ums and erhs. If you sound confident and comfortable about broaching the subject it is more likely that you partner will be more relaxed too.

Before you start your conversation about STI’s

  • Remember timing is everything, this needs to be considered when choosing when is the right time to begin this discussion

  • Think – if I don’t feel comfortable having this conversation with my partner should we be having sex yet?

  • Make sure it’s a conversation between the two of you and not just a monologue of what you think or want should happen.

  • Make sure you are in private and relaxed and that you both have time to discuss this subject, and that you are not on your way out somewhere in ten minutes.

  • You may be nervous about bringing the subject up, so might your new partner, admit that and begin.

  • You don’t need blow by blow accounts of sexual partners encounters just if they had any history of STI’s full disclosure on both sides goes without saying

  • Remember if your partner doesn’t want to discuss this subject then may be you should consider not having a sexual relationship with them at that point.

What do your friends think about STI’s?

Ask your friends how they start conversations about STI’s, if they say they don’t bother asking maybe they should be reading this article. Having conversations these days about sex and sex related issues is not as daunting as it used to be and most people are glad when a conversation like this opens up as it gives everyone the opportunity to discuss it.

STI Conversation starters:

    • I know this is an awkward subject and I don’t want you to be offended by this, but can we talk about our sexual history and STI’s?

    • I am concerned about the news of the increase of STI’s especially Chlamydia and was wondering if we could talk about it?

    • I really care about you but before this goes any further could we talk about STI’s?

    • I hope you don’t mind me asking you this but what are your thoughts on sexual partners and STI’s?

How to tell your partner you have an STI:

Having an STI is not the end of the world that some people think it is. These STI conditions are all treatable and manageable, talking about them and responding to the news that you or your partner has an STI is more often the problem.

Blame is futile, a waste of energy and effort, you could have contracted the condition or your partner contracted it and given it to you. Whoever did what or when or where will not detract from the situation you are in as a couple, which is to deal with the STI.
It is unreasonable to expect to control how someone will respond to the news that you have an STI, and that you may have passed it on albeit inadvertently to them, so you will need to be prepared for their response to go either way. When you were told you had an STI you needed to get used to it  and you had to work through your own feelings about the condition, it took time so it will them too. Approaching the conversation in a confident manner can help your partner to feel that this is something that you can deal with together.

When they receive the news, they may be angry, confused and hurt, these are perfectly understandable feelings and when someone reacts in this way try not to feel defensive. They are reacting to news which is usually quite unexpected; some partners will not be shocked or even disturbed about the news and will be sympathetic and supportive towards you. Once the initial shock has passed, have all the information at hand on what the condition is, how to deal with it and the next course of action to take; you will both feel that you are more in control of the situation. Being armed with the facts and answers helps allay the stigma which unfortunately so often surrounds these conditions.  

Be informed:

Know your STI if you have an infection which you didn’t know anything about previously find out everything you can about it so that if your partner asks you questions you have all the answers. Don’t be naïve regarding old myths and snippets of second hand information get armed with the facts.
We have links to many of the common STI’s on this site with many links and help lines as well click here for more information

Do I have to tell my partner?

This is two fold:-Morally or Emotionally

Morally- This is something only you can answer, but if you think about it, if the shoe were on the other foot would you want to know? If there is the possibility of your fertility being permanently damaged would you rather get it treated?

Emotionally - If you have contracted an STI, and are in a relationship where you feel you may be physically abused or are frightened by your partner, then it is advised that you give the name and address of your partner to a member of staff at the Sexual Health/GUM clinic. They will send a contact form to your partner, telling them that they may have been exposed to someone who has an STI advising them to get tested. You are not involved with any of the formal contact.

Sexual health/GUM clinics:

These offer a wide range of free and confidential services for the testing and treatment of all sexually transmitted infections STI’s, to everyone in the community. They can provide free condoms, advice on safer sex practices and support about any concerns you may have about STI’s. Many of the clinics offer counselling sessions about sexual issues such as relationship problems, sexual difficulties, sexual abuse or assault.

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