4 Questions to Ask a New Partner Before Having Sex

Sex with a new partner may be something that you are waiting for and planning, or it could be something that happens spontaneously.

Regardless, if you feel like things could be headed in that direction, it's a good idea to ask them some questions ahead of time so that you can feel more confident about moving forward and protecting your health.

These questions can help both you and your new partner protect your physical health.

Couple holding hands and kissing

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1

Have You Been Tested for STDs Recently?

If you ask people if they've been tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), they're likely to say "yes." Many of them will be wrong.

Despite what some may think, healthcare providers do not automatically test for these diseases during annual exams. In fact, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines don't call for it. Rather, only some STD tests are recommended for certain individuals at different times.

If someone says they have been tested for STDs, they should be able to tell you what diseases they've been tested for. If they can't, they may be mistaken about having been tested. They can call their healthcare provider's office and ask for their most recent testing results to confirm one way or the other.

With all of this in mind, you should also specifically ask your healthcare provider about testing, at least for chlamydia and gonorrhea, before starting any new sexual relationships.

Healthcare providers are sometimes reluctant to test for other STDs, such as syphilis or trichomoniasis, unless you have symptoms or know you have been exposed. Still, it never hurts to ask for the tests you want.

2

When Was Your Last HIV Test?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an STD. But some people, including some healthcare providers, think of HIV testing separately from STD testing.

This may be because of an intentional or unconscious belief that HIV only affects certain groups. It may also be due to the stigma often tied to testing positive.

If your partner says, "I've never been tested," you might want to wait to sleep with them until their answer changes.

CDC guidelines recommend that these individuals be tested for HIV on the following schedule:

  • Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 (at least once as part of routine health care)
  • Those at higher risk, such as those who have had more than one partner since their last HIV test, those diagnosed with/being treated for an STD, and men who have sex with men (at least once a year)
  • Those with any possible exposure to HIV through unprotected sex, sharing needles, or other exposure to bodily fluids (immediate, as-needed testing)

If you're not sure if you could have been exposed, you should also be tested.

In general, routine HIV testing is a good idea. Most states will test you anonymously, and free testing is available at numerous locations.

3

Are You Prepared to Have Safer Sex?

Be clear about communicating what your understanding of safer sex is. For example, some may consider penile-vaginal sex without a condom unsafe sex, while thinking oral sex can't cause STDs, though that's not the case.

Then, make sure they acknowledge their willingness to use whatever forms of protection you need to feel comfortable. This might include condoms, female condoms, back-up contraception, and spermicide.

It's wise for both of you to have these items on-hand should you need them.

Remember, too, that even if you or your partner use a form of continuous birth control, such as an IUD, you will still need to protect yourselves against STDs and the small risk of pregnancy that occurs with most forms of birth control.

4

Are You Currently Involved With Anyone Else?

A person could have gotten STD tests and been negative, and that's helpful to know. But those results are not as useful as you might be assuming if a partner is continuing to engage in activities outside of your relationship that put them at risk.

One of these is having sex with others and not practicing safer sex. You may both be on the same page about being monogamous, but it's also possible that you're not. Your partner could be having sex with someone else and not taking the steps you've agreed to take to protect each other's health.

Open communication is important to maintaining your physical and emotional health.

Long-term monogamous relationships represent the lowest risk to your sexual health.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Screening Recommendations and Considerations Referenced in Treatment Guidelines and Original Sources. September 15, 2021.