For many people, talking to a healthcare provider (be it a doctor, nurse, physician’s assiatnt, or whoever you see about your health) about your sexual health can be intimidating. You might feel embarrassed about the questions that you have; you might not want to admit to certain feelings or fears about your health. However, being able to talk to your healthcare provider about your sexual health is absolutely crucial.
If you can’t be totally honest about what’s happening with your body and your feelings about it, you won’t be able to get accurate treatment. Your healthcare provider should be able to give you straightforward, nonjudgmental feedback and advice about your body and sexual life, but he or she has to start with the whole picture!
The first step is to choose a healthcare provider that you trust. He or she should be someone who is open-minded, honest, and very good at listening. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about your own boundaries in terms of what is okay in terms of how he or she deals with your body and health concerns.
Communicating about your care
Your healthcare provider sometimes has to administer painful tests and examine parts of your body that are usually kept very private. Even so, you should always make sure that you and your provider are on the same page.
If you feel uncomfortable with your healthcare provider for any reason, follow your instincts; ask friends or trusted adults for other recommendations. Your good health depends on your ability to communicate and rely on your healthcare provider! You might have to try more than one before you feel completely comfortable. But when you do, he or she will be an ally as you continue to learn more about how to remain in good health.
When thinking about how to discuss your concerns or sexual problems with your healthcare provider, remember that he or she is there to help you. The things you want to talk about are almost certainly not new. He or she will have dealt with many patients who come to the table with all kinds of questions or conditions.
Here are some conversation openers that may be helpful:
“When I do decide to have sex, I want to make sure that I’m taking all of the right steps to protect myself from STIs. Where should I start?”
[For heterosexual couples] “How can I talk with my partner about birth control?”
“How can I talk to my partner about STDs/STIs? Can you give me some advice?”
“I want to make sure that my partner and I get tested before we have sex for the first time. Where should I go? How should I bring up the topic with him/her?”
What if you don’t have a regular healthcare provider?
Not everyone has a regular healthcare provider. Where do you begin trying to find one? You can start by asking family or friends for referrals. If you have health insurance, your insurance company should offer a list of providers as well. The links below offer another resource, allowing you to search for appropriate providers and health centers in your area:
Find a Health Center
From the U.S. Health Resources Services Administration. Search federally-funded health centers that provide care even if you have no health insurance. You pay what you can afford, based on your income.
MedlinePlus (a service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health) provides links to directories to help you find health professionals, services and facilities.
Find a Planned Parenthood clinic near you.
GLMA Provider Directory
The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) offers a directory of healthcare professionals that are LGBT welcoming.
National HIV and STD Testing Resources (from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Find a testing center, health department or other health clinic near you.