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It can feel awkward to bring up safer sex, but it’s important. Talking about protecting each other shows you care, and it can even make your relationship better.

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What questions should I ask my partner?

The best time to talk about your safer sex game plan is BEFORE you start having sex (including oral sex). Make sure you’re both cool with using condoms and/or dams to protect yourselves, and figure out when and how you’re going to get tested for STDs.

Some good questions to ask someone before having sex with them include:

  • Do you know if you have any STDs?

  • When was the last time you were tested for STDs?

  • Do you usually use condoms and/or dental dams?

  • Have you ever shared needles with someone for tattoos, piercings, or shooting drugs? (You can get some STDs like HIV this way, and then they can be passed to partners during sex.)

  • Have you had any STDs before? Which ones? Did you get them treated?

It’s totally normal to be embarrassed at first, but you’ll feel better once you get it over with. And your partner will probably be glad you brought it up. A good way to start is by telling your partner that you care about them and want to do everything you can to make sure you’re protecting them and the relationship. You can also talk about your own safer sex history first, which might make your partner feel more comfortable opening up. It’s also a great idea to suggest that you get tested together, so you can support each other.

One way to help avoid STDs is to only have sex with one other person at a time. Talk about whether you’re both committed to only having sex with each other (but keep in mind that people lie or may not know they have an STD, so you could still be at risk no matter what they say). If you or your partner aren’t monogamous (either of you has sexual contact with other people), it’s especially important to make a clear plan to protect everybody involved from STDs.

Remember: you can’t tell if someone has an STD by the way they look or feel. Most STDs get passed when there are no symptoms and people don’t realize they’re infected. And some STDs, including HIV, don’t show up on a test until months after a person gets them (but it can still be passed to others). So it’s a good idea to get tested at the beginning of your relationship, and then again a few months later — and use condoms in the meantime.

The bottom line is STDs are really common, and anyone can get them. So always plan on having safer sex and getting tested regularly, even if neither of you think you have an STD.

What if my partner doesn’t want to have safer sex?

If your partner won’t get tested or use protection, it may be a sign that your relationship isn’t healthy. When someone refuses to have safer sex when you want to, it means your health isn’t important to them — so they might not be the best person to have a relationship with.

Some STDs lead to serious health problems, infertility, or can even kill you. So having safer sex is really important, and may even save your life. If your partner won’t use protection or get tested, the best thing to do is not have any sexual contact with them. This can be hard — they may get angry and even end the relationship — but it’s the best way to stay safe. Someone who doesn’t respect your body and your health isn’t worth having sex with.

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