Two people talking over coffee

—Malik W., San Bernardino Valley College, California

This is a very important question to bring up. The stigmas surrounding getting tested for a sexually transmitted infection (STI)—also called sexually transmitted diseases (STD)—can be difficult to confront, yet it can be done. Here’s how.

Talk about why it's important.

Shift focus from “You might have an STI” to “It’s just a precaution.” For example, explain to your partner that this is the best way to protect each other from infections or any lifelong illnesses. That might help them realize there’s nothing to be defensive about.

Offer to get tested with them.

And then share your results with each other. This lets your partner know that you want to protect each other.

Make a pact to get tested regularly.

This shows your partner that this is a step in taking care of each other. It can also show respect and that you don’t want to unknowingly infect each other.

Halt any sexual activity until you’ve both been tested.

Let them know you’re not comfortable having sex or hooking up unless they’re willing to get tested. It’s important not to compromise your values of how you take care of yourself on someone who’s unwilling to take care of themselves or consider the effects on you.

It’s not uncommon for people to get defensive when asked to get a test like this. STIs have a lot of stigma associated with them. Because of that, some people think that being asked to get tested means they’re perceived as “dirty” or that they’re “sleeping around.”

But STI testing is especially and highly recommended for college-aged students who are sexually active. According to the CDC, people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for half of all the 19 million new STIs that are transmitted each year. While some STIs have symptoms, most do not. Many people don’t know that they’re infected until they get tested. This is why testing is so important.

For more information, check out the following: