A Cheat Sheet for Talking About Safe Sex

Practicing safe sex is easier said than done. Or actually, it's harder, because we often just don't know what to say to our partners. Here are the right words to use in awkward situations.

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This is never going to be a comfortable conversation, because issues of trust, infidelity and safety are difficult to discuss, but Ross stresses that you need to have this talk anyway. “It’s important to be calm, rational and honest when expressing your lack of trust in your partner, and explaining why you feel this way,” she says.

She suggests the following script:

You: I have been feeling really funny, and I want to talk to you about it. Something just doesn’t feel right about our relationship. I am having serious doubts that we are in a monogamous relationship. Until we can work out these trust issues, I would feel more comfortable if we started using condoms, because I am feeling that my health is at risk. Are we in a monogamous relationship? Because I really need to know.

Bottom line: Listen to your gut and don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself.

5. Your prospective partner tells you that he or she has been tested for HIV and/or other STDs, but you haven’t seen proof. You want reassurance but don’t want to come off as if you are conducting an interrogation.

Of course you don’t want to make someone feel as if he or she is being grilled by Benson and Stabler from Law & Order: SVU, but if you need the proof to ease your mind, you need the proof. And you shouldn’t have to apologize for it.

If the person admits that he or she needs to be tested or doesn’t have up-to-date results to show you, Ross suggests getting tested together — even making a date out of it. “The two of you can go and get tested together, reaffirming World AIDS Day or whatever you want to commemorate, and then share your results with each other.”

If you don’t want to put in all that time or effort, make sure your prospective partner e-mails you or show you those test results. “For every day you don’t see their results, send a friendly e-mail reminding them that you are waiting,” Ross advises. “You can even include sexy rewards as an incentive.”

And just as in scenario number two, a negative result does not mean ditching condoms. You still need to talk about the nature of your relationship and whether it is monogamous — and even if it is, there needs to be a conversation about safer sex. If you still want to use condoms, be open about your feelings. And remember that this isn’t just about your partner — it’s about your health.

6. Your partner (male or female) pressures you not to use a condom because not wearing a condom would demonstrate your love. He or she also tells you, “No one else makes me use a condom.”

How many times have we all heard this? Ross recommends just flipping the logic on your partner.

You: Well, if we love each other so much, we should want to protect each other. Look, both of us have had previous relationships, and this is about our safety — that is what love is about.

As for the claim that no one else has made your partner use condoms in the past:

You: I completely understand if no one else made you use condoms, but I thought I was special. This is what I need in order to be in this relationship.

While these tips will prove helpful for some, they are not likely to work for everyone. Be prepared not to get the results you want every time. Some people are just not going to want to get tested, use condoms or have a dialogue with you about these issues. If that happens, remind yourself that some things are not negotiable, and someone who claims to love and care about you is going to want to protect you. 

At a time when HIV/AIDS is ravaging our community, we have to remember what is at stake when we make a conscious decision not to have safer sex: our very lives.

Kellee Terrell is news editor for the Body, a website about HIV and AIDS. To learn more about World AIDS Day, go to the Body’s World AIDS Day 2010 resource center.

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