Dr. Leslie Kantor
Vice President of Education, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Everyone who chooses to be sexually active deserves a sex life that is healthy, pleasurable and fun — and that requires getting comfortable with talking about it. Here are a few tips to help you take care of your sexual health.
1. Talk with your partner
Talking about consent is essential for making sure everyone is clear on what’s going to happen and feels good about it. You also need to discuss how you are going to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and, if applicable, avoid unintended pregnancy, so talk about using condoms and gettingtested for STDs before you have sex. These conversations don’t have to be uncomfortable. You can say something like, “I’m a little nervous to bring this up… but I want us to be healthy and I think it’s important.”
2. Have safer sex
Using condoms consistently and correctly can help you and your partner stay healthy and protected from both STDs and unintended pregnancy. If you’re having vaginal sex, the best way to protect yourself is to use condoms plus another birth control method — so you’re protected from STDs and double-protected from pregnancy. The most effective methods are the IUD and implant, followed by the shot, pill, patch and ring.
3. Know the facts
Many people who have an STD don’t know it, since most STDs have no symptoms. Anyone who has had vaginal, anal or oral sex may have an STD. The good news is that all STDs, even HIV, are treatable, and many are curable — so it’s important to know your status and protect your health.
4. Get tested
Getting tested for STDs is a basic part of staying healthy, and it’s pretty easy to do. STD tests are generally quick, simple and painless — and completely private. Usually all you have to do is pee in a cup or get a mouth swab. Not all medical checkups include STD testing, so unless you ask to be tested, you can’t assume you have been.