Atlanta, GA, January 27, 2023 — StopHIVATL is an Atlanta-based consortium that aims to spread sex-positivity and harm reduction awareness through judgment-free resources. As part of our resources, we publish a monthly newsletter encompassing a range of topics targeting Black, Brown, LGBTQ+ folks, and those with relationships with substances.
Testing for sexually transmitted infections regularly is a great way to take control of your sex life. With various testing centers in metro Atlanta, you and your partners can learn your status and make informed decisions about sexual activity, prevention, and treatment options. However, in a culture of shame, it is common for folks to be afraid to seek testing. Demystifying testing starts by creating an open dialogue with your partners about the importance of testing and disclosing each other’s statuses. Below, you will find a guide on how to talk to partners about sexual health and wellness.
Knowing the Facts
Before talking to your partners about STIs and testing, it’s important to know the facts about these important subjects. Here are some ways to ensure you have the information you need:
Rely on Reliable Sources
There is a lot of misinformation out there about STIs. Often, media and other sources may portray them as scary, or cast those who test positive in a light of shame. For example, advocating for abstinence as the only way to avoid STIs or frowning upon people with multiple partners is a reflection of shame or sex-negativity.
Testing is important, but it’s also crucial to know that you’re getting your information about STDs and testing resources from trustworthy sources.
We all have biases about sex and STIs. Biases can muddle what we perceive as truth and concrete facts. Checking and unpacking those biases can help you conduct judgment-free and sex-positive conversations about testing with your partners. For example, thinking that someone diagnosed with an STI cannot engage in safe sex due to their status is a harmful bias.
Myths about sex often affect our perceptions about testing and people who test positive for STIs. Additionally, myths can fuel misconceptions and shame about testing. The truth is that people living with an STI can still enjoy a full, pleasurable sex life safely. Debunking myths is a great way to combat stigma among your peers and partners.
Starting The Conversation
Ready to talk to your partners about sexual health, including sexual histories, desires, negotiating safety and screening/testing? Follow these steps to ensure your conversation flows smoothly as possible.
In a perfect world, talking about your sexual health with your partners should be an easy, intuitive task. However, it’s common to feel uncomfortable when talking about your sexual health. Address any potential discomfort by taking control of the conversation. Assess whether you’d prefer a quiet place to talk in person or set up a time to discuss sexuality topics. Even a call or text with your partners might allow for different communication options about your STI status.
Additionally, your partners may feel discomfort, too. Listening, showing respect, acknowledging concerns, and creating a plan to navigate this subject together can help alleviate the tension.
Be Explicit About Intentions
Relieving the pressure from the conversation starts by being explicit about intentions. Don’t oscillate between your intentions and discomfort; since this may add unintentional tension to the conversation. Good questions to ask can look like this:
- When was the last time you had an HIV/STI test?
- Do you know your HIV status?
- Are you currently diagnosed with any STIs?
- Do you have a plan to inform your partners, including myself, in case someone in your sexual circle/you test positive for an STI?
- Are you on PrEP or any other medication?
- What protections or precautions do you take to prevent STIs?
Avoid any language that may connote negative stereotypes about status. Questions such as “Are you clean? (denoting negative STI status)” may not be helpful in promoting sex positivity.
Although the subject of testing and STI status may be daunting, it’s important to know that you and your partners can set boundaries if you don’t see eye to eye. Concerns over costs, shame, protection, for example, can lead to frustrations during a conversation about testing and status. Be explicit about your boundaries, and encourage your partners to remain faithful to theirs.
Boundaries help you stay truthful to your needs and desires. For example, if your partner refuses to get an STI test/screening and their refusal is a deal-breaker, you can set a boundary to revisit the conversation at a later date or abandon it altogether.
Find a Testing Center Or Order a Test Kit
Ready to get tested? Great! Testing is often one of the first steps toward prevention. Below, you’ll find some free resources to help you navigate your testing options.
Testing Centers Near You
Across metro Atlanta, many health centers offer discreet, gratuitous, and fast testing options. Using our widget on our testing FAQ page, you can easily find the nearest health center near you.
At-Home Test Kits
Is going to a health center intimidating? Live a busy lifestyle? Maybe an HIV/STI home testing kit is right for you. The Fulton County Board of Health offers free self-collection kits so you can test for STDs and STIs from the comfort and discretion of your own home. Order your test kit here.
About StopHIVATL: StopHIVATL is an organization based on promoting harm reduction, sexual health, sex positivity, and health engagement. They provide inclusive, zero-judgment information and resources on sexual health, drug user safety, Mpox, community events and more. The testing, prevention (PrEP), and treatment resources StopHIVATL refer to interested parties are always confidential, secure and accessible to those living in Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, and Cobb Counties.
Want to learn more about StopHIVATL’s mission and services? Visit www.stophivatl.org