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Having an open discussion about STDs and getting tested with your partner is beyond important, even if that partner is just on a casual level. While statistics for sexually transmitted diseases and infections are rather low between same sex female partners, it is not impossible. In fact, it is more common than we think. Additionally, for queer and bisexual women, your chances of being infected are even greater. So if you are considering having sex with a new partner, the discussion of getting tested together should be one of your first. And not just to protect yourself or your partner but so that you are also aware of your own sexual health.
The Why Behind Getting Tested
Historically, statistics have told us that Black women often get STDs from a male partner who had contracted them first, but are also disproportionately affected by STIs/STDs more than any race of women in the world.
According to the CDC:
92% of all new HIV diagnoses of African American/Black adult and adolescent women were attributed to heterosexual contact in 2018
The rate of reported chlamydia cases among Black women aged 20–24 years was 3.7 times the rate among White women in the same age group
In 2018, the overall rate of reported gonorrhea cases among Blacks in the United States was 7.7 times the rate among Whites. For Black women in particular, they were diagnosed with gonorrhea 6.9 times the rate of White women.
Additionally, a 2002 National Survey of Family Growth that measured sexual orientation and viral sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates among US women aged 15 to 44 years; told us that self-reported viral STD rates were significantly higher among bisexual women (15.0% to 17.2%) than among lesbians (2.3% to 6.7%). But again, this doesn’t mean that someone who identifies as a lesbian should not be both getting tested and using protection when having sex with a new partner.
First Step: Talk To Your Partner About Getting Tested
Talking about testing is really just thinking about the importance of both you and your partner’s health. The best approach is to address it like you would any important conversation--open and honest. If you go in with these intentions it is likely your partner will also feel the same way. And if they don’t, that should be a big enough red flag for you not to share your body with that person.
We recommend that you start the conversation by expressing how important getting tested is for you and not by implying that they might have something themselves. And that your desire to get tested is really to protect yours and theirs sexual health at the end of the day.
Second Step: Disclose Any of Your Current Statuses
Sexually transmitted diseases that you are currently managing ideally should be disclosed once the subject of sex becomes relevant in your relationship. But we believe this discussion should happen when you feel the most comfortable and trusting of the person you would like to be intimate with. If you are currently managing a STD, we recommend disclosing to your new partner which one it is, and what precautions are in place to protect them from transmission during sex. It’s best to divulge all information openly and honestly to ensure the highest levels of comfort and safety are achieved prior to physical intimacy.
With so many advancements in treatments of historically ostracized sexually transmitted diseases in recent years, many folks who have positive statuses are having very active and safe sexual lives. There is no shame in talking about STDs or AIDS, but there is in passing something along to someone without them knowing.
Third Step: Getting Tested
While going for an STD test isn’t the most romantic idea, thinking about each other’s well being and health is. It can be anxiety inducing and stressful to go get a test done, so being able to go out to have lunch or something afterwards could be a great way to handle it. Plus, test results can take two to five days to be returned, no reason for you all to be weird with one another in the meantime.
Or, if you are thinking about getting tested alone, but are scared to do so, employing the buddy system is a great method to help ease your nerves. Taking a friend along with you is a great way to have moral support regardless of your reasons for getting tested, as well as your test outcome.
Fourth Step: Sharing Results
If testing by yourself, talking about the results of your test with your partner after the fact is the final step. Honesty is key here. Sit down with your partner and be open with them, show them the results of your test regardless if your test comes back positive or negative.
If your test comes back positive and you’re in shock by this and feel betrayed by the person you last had sex with because of it, remember that feeling when talking to your partner and do better. This is not something to risk passing along to someone you care about no matter the shame you may feel for being positive. And even if your test comes back negative, those results should still be shared. Physical proof is a lot better than word of mouth.
Given our current social and political climate, as well as looking back at the history--how widespread disease (specifically AIDS and COVID) have been overlooked or brushed aside in minority communities, looking after your health and your partner’s health is more important than ever.
Written by: Sammy B