Having the STD/I talk
Q. I have been friends with this guy for a few months and we recently started seeing each other romantically. Aside from kissing and feeling each other out, we haven't gotten physical, the reason being that I'm nervous about telling him my secret; I have a Sexually Transmitted Disease. Even if we used condoms, there is a chance that he might contract it, and I would hate to be the one responsible for giving it to him. This is the first time I've had to admit to someone that I have one and I'm really unsure about how I bring it up; any advice?
A. One of the most important tenets of safer sex is being able to initiate an open and honest discussion about sexual health with the person you're considering getting intimate with. Yet many people find that ‘having the talk’ is really difficult to do. When you know you have a Sexually Transmitted Disease/Infection (STD/I), there is an added stigma associated with being ‘infected’, and you also have to cope with the fear of being rejected by a potential lover if they feel that the risk to their health is too high.
It sounds like you’re really distressed about having to tell your new boyfriend the truth, but don’t assume that he’ll walk away because of it. The truth of the matter is that STD/Is have become quite common. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 5 people in the U.S.A. have an STD/I, and since there are a number of conditions that may not present any symptoms, many people don’t even know that they’re carriers of the disease/infection until it causes physical damage to themselves or their partners.
The fact that you know you’re a carrier places a heavier burden mentally on you in terms of having to admit this to future boyfriends, but you can’t treat it as a death sentence to your sex life either! Because having a STD/Is is no longer uncommon, anyone who is sexually active should be proactive about minimizing the risk of contagion and practicing lower risk sexual behavior such as using a Condom or dental dam for Oral and Anal sex, mutual masturbation, or not using shared toys.
Delaying the truth for too long will only make him feel hurt and misled, so if sexual activity is in the cards for you two, you need to tell him the truth. One of the best ways to approach the situation is to wait until you’ve shared some mild sexual intimacy like kissing or cuddling (you need to make sure you’re compatible, right?), then invite him to talk about sexual health by sharing your side of things first. Start by saying something like, “I’d really like to become more intimate with you, but before we progress any further sexually, it’s important for you to know about my STD/I status.”
How you feel about having an STD/I will color the way you share the information, so if your boyfriend doesn’t know much about the one that you have, be prepared to teach him what it’s about. He’ll form an opinion based on the manner in which you tell him, so if you’re still holding onto past baggage, it’ll show in your delivery; it may also be a sign that you’re not emotionally ready to become intimate with a person until you stop blaming yourself (or someone else) for getting the disease. Lastly, give him some time to process. Some people panic and don’t react well to the news, some can accept it right away, and others need time to make a well informed decision. Be patient.