“Are You Clean?”: How to Ditch This Question for Our Partners and Ask About STDs in a Better Way

This past week, there was a breaking news story of an HIV-positive man who is now facing criminal charges for having unprotected sex with dozens of people and not disclosing his HIV status to them.

This brings up some important points that need to be addressed.

First off, you can face felony or misdemeanor charges depending on the circumstances, if you are HIV positive and don’t disclose your status to your partner. The punishment is more severe, if you knowingly and intentionally don’t disclose your status (yes, some people are awful and do hope others will get the disease from them).

Secondly, you should always tell your partner your status, even if you aren’t HIV-positive. This is so so so important and goes a long way in owning your status. You would like to think that your partner will tell if you they have an STD or not, but this is not always the case. This way, you’ll know when they were tested last, if they’ve been tested at all, and if they do have any STDs.

If they say they don’t know their status, then you can make an informed decision about how to proceed next. Maybe you wait until you’ve both been tested again? Or, if you do decide to engage in sexual activities, just decide to play it safe and use condoms or dental dams. Ultimately the decision is yours. Just be sure it’s one you can live with.

I talk to a lot of people who are scared to ask their partner their status. This is completely normal.

Here are some tips to make it easier on yourself:

  1. Ask yourself, how would I respond if someone asked me about my status? Chances are, you wouldn’t be offended (depending on how the person worded the question, of course). If you won’t be offended, you’re like 99 percent of the people I’ve asked this same question to. People generally aren’t offended and are even relieved if you do ask.
  2. Your partner probably wants to ask you about your status, but doesn’t know how. This is your chance to take control and own your sexual health by stepping up to the plate and asking first.
  3. Ask before the clothes come off. A lot of people are concerned that if they ask about STDs, it will ruin the mood. Find a way to talk about it before you start getting really hot and heavy, that way you won’t be a buzzkill.
  4. Avoid using the word clean. Just because someone has an STD doesn’t mean they’re “dirty”. In fact, 1 in 2 young adults will have an STD at some point in their life, so it’s completely normal (and avoidable!).
  5. Be direct. Don’t try to beat around the bush with slang and jargon. Simply ask, “Have you been tested recently?” or “Do you have any STDs that you know of?” or “What’s your status?”.
  6. Have a plan in place for how you’ll handle it if someone does say they have an STD or HIV. You don’t want to be caught off guard, or caught up in the moment, and make a bad decision, so spend 5 minutes right now determining how you would handle that situation.

If you have an STD or HIV, it is important that you disclose this information to your partner before you have sex. It can be extremely nerve wracking, and your partner may react poorly, but at the end of the day, you need to follow the golden rule and do unto others as you would have done unto you. Wouldn’t you be less upset if your partner was honest with you about their status BEFORE you had sex rather than waiting until after?

Having an STD or HIV isn’t a bad thing, but it’s important to be completely open with your partner in order to protect your sexual health and own your status.


Photo: Andrew Beeston|freeimages.com


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