We should discuss sexual health with doctors and nurses as easily as we chat about getting a flu shot or wanting to lose weight, but we’re often held back by a lack of comfort with the topic. Talking openly about sex begins with choosing a health care provider you trust and who treats you with respect, without any judgement.

If you don’t like the way you’re treated or think your sexual health concerns aren’t being addressed, consider finding a different provider. Your health care team should be on your side. Keep in mind that there’s almost nothing you’ll bring up regarding sexual health they haven’t heard about and dealt with before.

Talking about STIs

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are more common than you probably think and, contrary to popular belief, frequently don’t have obvious signs or symptoms (and any symptoms that do develop might be easily confused with other conditions).

Anyone who has sex can have an STI and not know it: communication with your provider is a big key as your STI testing needs are influenced by factors including your gender, age, sexual orientation, and the type of sex you have.

Ask if any vaccines are recommended for you (like those that protect against human papillomavirus, HPV). Parents, this is also a good question to ask your child’s pediatrician.

“An honest, in-depth discussion of your sexual history allows the health care provider to provide the tailored, quality care to which you’re entitled.”

Going in-depth

Your health care provider can help you with other matters such as breast cancer and prostate cancer screening. They can even be a good resource if you need to talk about the quality of your relationship and how well your partner treats you, or can help with a referral to a mental health expert.

Transgender men and women have unique needs, too. An honest, in-depth discussion of your sexual history allows the health care provider to provide the tailored, quality care to which you’re entitled.

Remember, if you’re worried or concerned about any aspect of your sex life or relationships don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sexual health is a right and you should feel empowered to find your voice and get the care you need.