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How Can I Find Out If My Boyfriend Has an STD Before We Have Sex?

My boyfriend has already had sex, oral sex, and mutual masturbation with multiple partners. I think we're ready to have sex, but I'm nervous that I will get pregnant or get an STD. How can I prevent these and get over my self-consciousness? Also how can I tell if he has an STD without asking him?
Sophie*

You're right to consider these possibilities. Having sex is a huge decision, and an STD or unplanned pregnancy can change your life.

Condoms are the best way to prevent pregnancy and STDs. So be sure to use a condom every time you have sex (including oral or anal sex). But, like most things in life, condoms aren't 100% guaranteed. So it's best to talk to your boyfriend about your concerns before you have sex.

Your boyfriend has been honest about his past sexual partners, and that's a sign he'll be open to talking about STDs. Try to work up the courage to ask. Lots of people have this conversation with their partners and it's normal to be nervous when you first start talking. If your boyfriend cares, he'll want to help you feel comfortable in your relationship — sex is about sharing as a couple, not one person's pleasure. Most people admire partners who respect themselves enough to protect their own health, even if it means asking tough questions.

Start by asking your boyfriend if he's ever worried about STDs and if he's been tested. There's no way to tell by looking if a person has an STD — even people with STDs sometimes don't know they have them. Your boyfriend can get tested at a local health clinic like Planned Parenthood. If he wants, you can go with him for support. While you're there, ask for advice on birth control. Of course, if you've had sex before, you should get tested too.

One final word about STD testing: Although tests check for STDs that carry the most serious health risks, not all tests check for every STD. So keep using condoms every time you have sex.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: February 2009

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