How to Talk About STDs


  • Talking about STDs is important for your health
  • Discuss STDs with your partner after long trainings and deployments
  • Planning ahead will help you have an open and honest conversation

Sex defies logic. Otherwise talking about your sexual history with a current or potential partner would not seem harder than taking off all of your clothes and getting into bed with that person.

The fact is that talking about sexual history and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is not only simple, but necessary. One in five people have an STD, and the risks of getting an STD are even higher for Soldiers.

If you are dating someone new or rekindling a relationship after a break-up or deployment, follow these easy steps to talk about STDs. The conversation will only take a few minutes and could prevent you from getting an infection that causes discomfort, infertility or even cancer.


Let’s face it. If you or your partner are listed as “Single”, “It’s complicated,” or “In an open relationship” on Facebook, you need to have the talk. But relationships aren’t always that transparent—especially for military couples who spend time apart for trainings and deployments.

Unless you have a ring on your finger, you cannot assume that you are in a committed relationship. Talk about whether or not you are sleeping with other people, and if you’ve been apart for training or deployment, ask whether your partner has been with anyone else before the welcome home sex. If you or your partner have been with someone else since the last time you were together, proceed to Step 2.


When preparing to talk about STDs, consider three things: 1) timing, 2) location and 3) what you have to say. Don’t wait until you are in the heat of the moment to talk about STDs. Instead, plan to have the conversation during dinner or someplace private.

If you’re not sure where to begin, try these conversation starters.

  • New Relationship: “I know we are just getting to know one another, but I really like you and think it’s important to talk about sex early…”
  • Reuniting with an Old Flame: “I’m so happy to be spending time with you again, but we should talk about the time that we were apart…”
  • Committed Relationship: “You know I trust you, but I have to ask just to make sure…”
  • Spouse (if you have concerns): “I know that you get lonely when I’m away. I’m probably just being insecure, but I have to ask…”

Next, consider the questions you want to ask.

  • Have you been with anyone since we were together?
  • Did you date anyone while I was away?
  • When was the last time you were tested?
  • Did you test positive for any STDs?

Finally, think about how you will react if your partner has an STD. Millions of people with STDs go on to have successful relationships, marriages, and families. Depending on how you feel about the person, you may choose to take it slow, be extra cautious or go your separate ways. Considering the possibilities will help you avoid reacting in a way that could hurt your relationship.


This is by far the hardest part. You know you need to talk about it. You’ve had the conversation in your head a thousand times. Now, you just need to say it. If you get nervous, go to the bathroom, give yourself a pep talk, and start the conversation as soon as you get back.

Depending on your relationship, be prepared for a variety of responses. If your partner gets defensive, try to not to argue. Listen without judgment, and emphasize how much you care.


If there is a chance you or your partner have been exposed to an STD, suggest that you get tested together. Call your doctor to schedule an appointment or use an STD test locator to find a clinic near you.


Now that you have the information you need to protect yourself and your partner, you can enjoy being intimate without the fear of an STD. Don’t throw out the condoms though. Unless you are trying to start a family, condoms are one way for preventing accidental pregnancy.


Get tips on how to talk to your partner about sex and STDs, also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), on the It’s Your Sex Life Campaign website.

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