Dr. Anju Goel
The Preventive Health Issue

Don't Ignore Preventive Sexual Health Because You're Embarrassed

While we’ve come a long way in doing away with the taboo nature of preventive sexual health—like testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and accessing birth control—I still notice a hesitancy from some people in seeking care because of embarrassment.

Too often, I have seen people shy away from STI treatment because they are ashamed of their diagnosis. Preventive sexual health is nothing to be ashamed of. You should be proud you’re taking care of yourself.  

No matter what preventive health care you seek, you can keep those conversations and treatments between you and your healthcare provider. And while I completely understand the desire for privacy, please remember that you are not the first to have an STI or start birth control. No shame. But again, as healthcare providers, we understand your wish to keep things private. 

With that, I want to encourage everyone to stay on top of their preventive sexual health. 

Preventive sexual health is nothing to be ashamed of. You should be proud you’re taking care of yourself.

What Is Preventive Sexual Health?

Managing your sexual health can include the following:

  • STI testing 
  • Family planning
  • Overall sexual health education

Below, these three preventive sexual health measures and your privacy rights are outlined. 

STI Testing

STI testing is not a routine part of an annual checkup and often needs to be requested.

The most common STIs include:

To determine which STI you should be tested for, it’s important to be completely transparent with your healthcare provider about your sex life. This includes:

  • Number of sexual partners
  • Whether you use protection (condoms)
  • If you are a man who has sex with other men
  • If you have had sex with someone who has an STI
  • If you are pregnant

These factors can determine which type of STI testing you should receive. Sharing details about your sex life may seem personal (it is), but it’s necessary when discussing aspects of sexual health.

Family Planning

When discussing family planning with a healthcare provider, birth control is likely a focus. 

Depending on your plans, your birth control options can vary. It’s important to be transparent with your healthcare provider, so they can point you in the right direction when choosing a birth control option. 

Birth control options include: 

Some may consider "natural" methods like abstinence, outercourse, and withdrawal. Although, these are generally not considered forms of birth control.

When choosing your birth control method, it’s important to keep your family planning decisions in mind. Questions to ask yourself (and share with your healthcare provider) include:

  • Do I ever want kids?
  • When do I want kids?
  • Am I unsure if I want kids?

Sexual Health Education

If you want to learn more about sexual health, a healthcare provider can provide more information.

Other places to get information include:

Your Privacy

Although laws vary by state, minors have a right to access preventive sexual health care. All states allow minors to consent to STI testing and treatment without parental permission. However, 18 states allow—but do not require—a healthcare provider to inform a minor's parents that their child is either seeking or receiving STI services when a healthcare provider thinks it is in the minor's best interest.

Other states have consent laws that include pregnancy prevention and care and—sometimes—abortion services.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Workowski KA, Bachmann LH, Chan PA, et al. Sexually transmitted infections treatment guidelines, 2021. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2021;70(4):1-187. doi:10.15585/mmwr.rr7004a1

  2. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Confidentiality in adolescent health care.

  3. Guttmacher Institute. An overview of consent to reproductive health services by young people.

By Anju Goel, MD, MPH
Anju Goel, MD, is board-certified in internal medicine. She has over 10 years of experience in the California public health system addressing communicable disease, health policy, and disaster preparedness.