Talking STIs: That awkward chat you need to have with a new partner

It’s wise to have a conversation about sexual health before jumping between the sheets with a new partner. Here’s how to make it a little less uncomfortable.

If you’re starting a relationship, at some point you’ll need to discuss your sexual health with your new partner.

Particularly, you’ll need to talk about sexually transmitted infections – whether you have any, how to check if you do, and how to keep each other safe from infections.

“This can be a bit nerve-racking – talking about STIs is still a bit of a taboo – but it’s important,” says sex therapist and relationship counsellor Desiree Spierings.

She recommends having the conversation before you get intimate, so you can both go into the bedroom knowing you’ve taken the right precautions.

How to talk about sex and STIs

While it can be a tricky conversation, Desiree offers some tips on opening up the chat – starting with expressing how you feel.

“You might start by saying ‘I feel a bit nervous/uncomfortable/anxious to bring this up’, or ‘what I am going to talk about is very important to me/it’s difficult for me to find the words’,” she says.

Desiree suggests thinking about what you would like from your partner while you are talking.

“For example, I’d like you to hold my hand or to stay calm and hear me out before responding,” she says.

Desiree recommends you explain why you are having the conversation.

“It’s because you value your health and wellbeing – including your sexual wellbeing – and you’d like both of you to stay safe and healthy,” she says.

Then offer a solution such as using protection or having an STI test before starting a sexual relationship.

“End the conversation with an understanding that your partner might want to think about what has been said first and that you are open to talking about this again at a later stage,” Desiree says.

What if I have an STI?

If you get a positive STI test result, before you let your partner know, Desiree recommends you get the facts about the infection.

That means when you explain your result, you can also explain how it is transmitted and treated.

“Be prepared, so you can give your partner more than a name and answer any questions,” she says.

“Then you can discuss if they feel comfortable having sex with the right precautions, or would they prefer to wait until you finish treatment.”

Top tips to protect yourself from STIs

  • Speak to your GP about an STI check.
  • Condoms are a barrier against some STIs. “Older women who’ve gone through menopause may think that there’s no pregnancy risk so protection isn’t as important, but it is,” says Desiree.
  • If you haven’t used a condom for a while, practise using one so you don’t feel awkward.
  • When you first start to talk about sexual intimacy, be clear that you want to use a condom.

Written by Sarah Marinos