Why You Might Not Know If Your Partner Has an STD

People often assume that they'd be able to tell if they or their partner had an STD. They figure they'd know if someone has STDs because:

  1. There would be noticeable STD symptoms, such as a change in odor or visible sores.
  2. If someone has an STD, their doctor would tell them after their regular check-up.
  3. Only certain types of people get STDs, and high-risk people are easy to recognize.
Photo of a happy young couple dancing in their bedroom
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Unfortunately, none of these beliefs are true. There is no reliable way to tell if someone has STDs.

  1. Huge numbers of people with STDs have no symptoms. That means you can't tell that someone is infected by just looking...or sniffing.
  2. For a number of reasons, doctors don't usually include comprehensive STD testing as part of an annual exam.
  3. Anyone can get an STD. That's true even if they practice safe sex. That's true, sometimes, even if they're still a virgin.

Furthermore, it's important to realize that people can spread STDs even in the absence of symptoms. It's thought, for example, that a large proportion of the people who are infected with genital herpes were exposed by people who had no idea they had the virus. This is also true for other conditions, including syphilis, chlamydia, and HIV. Therefore, you can't tell if someone has an STD just by looking at them. You also can't tell just by asking them. If they haven't been tested, they may have no idea they're infected.

So How Can You Tell If Someone Has STDs?

The truth is that the only way for you to know if you or your partner has an STD is to get screened. Then you have to openly discuss your screening results with one another. You can't rely on symptoms. You can't rely on hoping a person knows their results. And you can't rely on being able to identify someone as looking as though they might be safe.

Assuming that you'd know if your partner had an STD, or that they'd know themselves, is a recipe for anger and heartbreak. In contrast, taking responsibility for your own health, helps you reduce your risk of acquiring an STD. It also improves the health of your relationships. That means undergoing regular screening, talking to your partner about their screening history, and practicing safe sex.

It can be devastating to find out that you've been infected with an STD when you had no idea such a risk existed. It can lead to feelings of anger and partner blame that can destroy a relationship. Many people are willing to accept the risk of STD infection to be with someone they care about. However, that's far more likely to be true when they've been given the chance to make an informed choice. Forgiveness is harder when people feel deceived. Such feelings of deception can exist even when no one was intentionally misled. How? When one or both partners simply believed the sex myth that told them they'd just know if they had an STD.

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