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When and how should you discuss STDs with your partner?

Imagine this scenario...

You have been actively dating for a long time. You have matured in your expectation of others and what you really want in a partner. It has finally paid off. You have met someone worth emotionally investing in and things have grown to a place of what you may believe to be love.

One quiet evening alone things heat up and before anything can continue, you realize you are stuck. You have been keeping a secret. You have an STD and you don't know how to tell your partner because you fear they will not want to be with you any longer.

What do you do?
Nothing is harder to talk about than an STD. This topic brings upon so much shame and embarrassment. Many people have told me they would rather have a criminal history or be in recovery from a drug addiction then live with a current STD.

Why is there so much shame and embarrassment surrounding this issue? Why is it so taboo?
I believe, as a society we just don't normalize this issue enough. In school at an early age, we are shown horrific films outlining "prevention" that actually perpetuates the shame and embarrassment of STDs instead of normalizing it and effectively preventing youth from engaging in unprotected sex. Using protection will almost always guarantee that you do not contract any STDs, however, there continues to be a high number of people that still suffer from them.

This leads to one of two conclusions: either people continue to lack the education and/or there are additional factors that are not commonly discussed.

I believe it is a combination of both.
Prevention can always be improved upon, but since the population that suffers the most is the 15-24 age range, we have to ask what is it about that age group? It is clear to me that it is the invincibility factor. Young adults are generally limited in their ability to delay instant gratification long enough to make the right choices and if you add any emotional problems to the equation, things get even more complicated.

More energy needs to go into addressing this issue from a psychological perspective. In other words, school age children need to be talked to about their values regarding sex and intimacy so referrals for support groups or counseling can be made to help youth have a better understanding of their own sexuality. Unfortunately, it is not just about asking a teenager to use a condom.

Regardless of what has caused the high number of STDs, the issue as people mature is how do you address it in your current relationship and when do you have the talk about your own sexual history?

Here are ten things to consider when choosing to discuss your sexual history with a partner.

However, the most important thing for people who currently suffer from an incurable STD is that you are no longer invincible and now you must be responsible. It is your responsibility to tell your new partners if you are currently infected with an STD.

1. Do you have or have you had an STD? If you had one many years ago and it is gone then it is a personal choice if you want to disclose it or not. There really is no right or wrong here.

2. If you currently have an STD do you understand all there is to know about it? Education is key. With understanding usually comes more acceptance. 20% of the population suffer from some form of herpes with that statistic alone demonstrates the commonality of STDs in American society.

3. Have you accepted that you have an STD? With so much shame and embarrassment surrounding the issue, you must come to terms with it. If you are comfortable with it, whoever you sleep with is more likely to be comfortable with it as well.

4. Timing is everything. It is important to figure out the optimal time to share your sexual history with your new partner. If you do it too soon, you scare your potential partner away, but if you wait too long and you have already fallen in love then you risk losing someone you really care about. My suggestion is you tell them before you fall in love but after you are sure that the relationship has the potential to go somewhere. This determination is usually after a handful of dates but absolutely prior to having sex.

5. Should you consider not telling your partner and just roll the dice? This is very risky. Yes, they may fall in love with you and after you tell them when the love is there they may just not be able to bear losing you. However, it is just a bad way to start a relationship and it models ineffective communication.

6. Should you be scared that they will not accept you if you tell them? Unfortunately having an incurable disease is "baggage" and some people will not be able to get past it. I think you have to tell yourself that if someone is unable to accept you for you then they were not worth it in the first place.

7. Is there a best way to tell someone you have an STD? Yes, there is. You should tell them when both of you are in a rational comfortable place prior to any sexual contact so that sexual desires do not impact any decision making for either partner.

8. Should you request that your partner be tested for STDs? Of course you should. The sooner you are comfortable asking someone to test the more comfortable you will be. If they cannot do this for you or accept that it is the right thing to do, how can they be right for you?

9. How frequently should someone be tested? Medical practitioners say once every six months. If your partner is monogamous then a test now clears them from everything up to six months ago. If they are only with you then one more time in six months makes them safe from STDs. However, that is if they are only sexually active with you.

10. Being sexually active with someone is about trust and intimacy. If you don't trust your partner then you are setting yourself up to the possibly of STDs and heartbreak.

These 10 factors to consider are not exhaustive and in every new relationship there are always unique nuances to explore. However, these 10 factors are a great jumping point when deciding to share your sexual history.

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