Talking about HIV and other STDs with a new partner
I’ve gotten pretty confused about when to talk with new partners or boyfriends about STDs and HIV status. Some of my friends say that as long as you’re having safer sex, there’s no need to have "the talk." Others say — vehemently, I might add — that I must have that conversation. What do you think? By the way I’m HIV-positive.
All of us who are sexually active need to be responsible for considering the risks of spreading STDs and for taking steps to protect our partners and ourselves. Whether positive or negative (or, unknowing), we owe it to everyone involved to talk about our sexual health before having sex. I’ve long said that if you’re intimate enough to have sex with someone, you’re intimate enough to talk about HIV status.
It’s usually easier to do this before you find yourself in the heat of the moment, where folks sometimes get carried away by the throes of passion and take risks they might not otherwise. “The talk” needn’t be involved or lengthy—although, admittedly, it can be hard to make this particular topic romantic. Be truthful and direct, saying, for instance: “I just want you to know that as far as I know, I’m [fill in the blank]. What about you?” Sometimes it’s easier if you volunteer your health status first, as a way to open the door. If humor comes to you naturally, by all means try that; but remember, you’re not giving a public health lecture.
Since you mentioned that you’re HIV-positive, let me give you some more advice to chew on. Even if you’ve hinted at your seropositive status, don’t assume your partner knows. The subtle signals of human interaction—especially sex-charged interaction—are easily misinterpreted. By the way, even if you discover that both of you are poz, you’ll still want to talk about other potential bugs on board (Hepatitis B/C, gonorrhea, etc.) to avoid any co-infections.
Similarly, it’s smart for HIV-negative people to tell their partners that information, too. This may well help a poz partner disclose his status or help both of you gauge where you’ll play on the safer-sex spectrum. Or, the HIV-positive fellow may decide to pass on having sex, having previously decided not to date or have sex with HIV-negative guys (and vice versa).
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