Using dating apps comes with a whole slew of pros and cons, one of which is that there are just so many people available to meet and go out with. It’s a pro because having more options is always fun, but it can also be a con when you consider that you might not get to know a person very well before you hook up with them. That’s a problem if you skip some important steps, like asking your Tinder date if they’ve been tested for STIs recently.
Casual sex can be fun, but getting infected with an STI? Not so much. The good thing about most STIs, including HIV, is that they’re treatable once diagnosed. Even HIV is no longer a “death sentence” with proper care and medication management. STIs are usually preventable, so as long as you’re getting tested regularly and having safe sex, you can enjoy yourself without constant fear of infection.
That said, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding sexually transmitted infections and diseases, which means most people don’t like talking about them. But if you’re having sex with multiple partners, you have to get real and ask people if they’re being as responsible as you are and getting tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people get tested at least once a year for STIs, and if you have multiple partners, every three to six months. So here’s how to ask your date if they’ve seen their doctor recently.
1Remember that it’s an essential conversation.
You might feel embarrassed talking about STIs, but you shouldn’t. In fact, ensuring that your partner has been tested for STIs is essential — and it’s an empowering way to take control of your own health. The more people are open about their STIs and if they’ve been tested, the less stigma surrounding STIs there will be. It’s just a fact.
2Make sure they’re paying attention.
While the conversation doesn’t have to be a big deal, it should be taken seriously. House added, “This is a dedicated STI conversation. It is not a conversation in passing, when you’re intoxicated, done in a joking manner, in a moment of sexual intimacy, or over text. This is an in-person, sit-down, real-talk conversation that you should have when you feel like sex is definitely in the cards in the very near future.”
3Disclose your own history, too.
No one has to disclose their status on their dating profile — there are lots of things we wait and share about ourselves, House told HG. So if they do have an STI or haven’t been tested recently, you shouldn’t get judgmental.
House explained, “If you do have an STI, it can help to then give the facts, statistics, and your personal experience with the STI. Don’t be defensive, disparaging, dismissive, aggressive, ashamed, or marginalizing. Answer any questions that your partner has, and give them a moment, or even a few days, to think about what you said.” It’s important to remember that having an STI (whether it’s you or them) “doesn’t mean that you are dirty, tainted, or alone,” House added.
4Go get tested.
If they haven’t been tested recently, this is a great time to do it. Stick to your guns, too. No one has to get tested for STIs, so you shouldn’t force or coerce them into it. But if it’s important to you, don’t sleep with them until they get tested. Information is everything.
5Listen to your partner.
Knowledge really is power. There is a lot of misunderstanding about STIs and how people get them. House noted that no one “intentionally” gets an STI.
“Many people with STIs got them from someone who didn’t know, or at least didn’t disclose, that they had one. Many people got the STI from someone who they were in a relationship with. Just because someone has an STI doesn’t necessarily mean that they are easy or reckless. I have had clients who got an STI from the first person who they were ever with. Other clients who got it from their husband,” she said. An STI shouldn’t define a person, just like any other physical or mental health issue they have.
Asking a new partner or hookup about their STIs can be awkward, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s the most sex-positive thing you can do. And if you’re out there having fun with new people, it’s totally necessary.