How to Talk to Your Friends About Safe Sex

Three Methods:Starting the Conversation About SexAddressing a Friend's Unsafe BehaviorTalking With a Potential Partner

You probably talk with your friends about all kinds of important issues, so what's the big deal about talking about safe sex? Talking frankly about sex can be surprisingly hard to do, but there are good reasons to learn to do it. If you're HIV-positive, you might want to know how to share this with your friends. Maybe you have questions that your friends can help you with. You might want to share what you've tried, and find out if others have had similar experiences.

Method 1
Starting the Conversation About Sex

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    Know why you're having this conversation. Think about what you want to accomplish by talking to your friend about safe sex. Are you worried about her reputation? Are you concerned for her health? Or are you resentful of the attention your friend is receiving from others?[1]
    • You may think you have good intentions, but if you want to preserve your friendship, being clear on your own motives is essential.
    • If you are condescending, or if your intention is not helpful, you may lose a good friend.
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    Check your assumptions. People have different sexual values, even when they have many other things in common. Sex is a moral issue in our culture, but it's also one with medical implications. Safer sex refers only to engaging in sexual interactions that are less likely to result in the transmission of disease.[2]
    • If you're disturbed by the moral values of your friend's sexual habits, consider finding another way of handling your discomfort.
    • Being clear on your own "triggers" or values on the topic of safe sex will help you better prepare for this conversation with your friend.
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    Choose a suitable time. You'll need to find a time when both you and your friend will have plenty of time to talk. You don't want to feel hurried or rushed. Find a private place for this conversation, one that's quiet and free of distractions.[3]
    • If you'll be talking with a group of friends, make sure that everyone feels included.
    • Ask your friend to set aside some time for the conversation so that she knows it's important to you.
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    Be clear and direct. If you're serious about having a conversation about safe sex, it's best to say exactly what you mean. Don't use euphemisms or figures of speech that others might not understand. If you talk with a clear and direct tone, you're more likely to get others to respond in this way.[4]
    • If you tend to get embarrassed when talking about sex, your friends might become embarrassed also. This will make your conversation more difficult.
    • Remember that talking about safe sex is a health issue.
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    Have your questions ready. Especially if you're the kind of person who gets embarrassed when talking about sex, you will want to prepare for this conversation ahead of time. Once you've decided what you want to talk about, stick to your message.[5]
    • You might decide to write down your questions ahead of time, and bring them to the conversation.
    • Be honest and specific.

Method 2
Addressing a Friend's Unsafe Behavior

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    Don't be judgmental. Remember that not everyone shares the same perspective on sex. If you've never talked to your friends about safe sex before, you might find out that their perspective is quite different from your own. It's important to realize that the purpose of this conversation isn't to pass judgment on another person's perspective. Instead, listen with curiosity to what your friend shares.[6]
    • By participating in honest conversations about safe sex, you might learn new ideas.
    • If you're having this conversation because you're concerned about your friend's safety with sex, make sure you stick to that topic. For example, "I'm worried that you might catch a sexually-transmitted disease," is better than, "I hate it when you act like a slut."
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    Use good listening skills. Look at your friend while she's talking, and ask questions to clarify anything you don't understand. Repeat your friend's words in your own language so that your friend can confirm that you've understood what she said.[7]
    • Avoid giving advice that's not asked for, or making statements that dismiss your friend's experience.
    • Further the conversation by asking open-ended questions, like, "How did you feel about what happened?"
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    Talk only about what you've seen. You should plan to stick to sharing your own observations about your friend's behavior when you're having this discussion. If you've noticed your friend engaging in risky behavior, provide specifics. It's possible that she hadn't realized her behavior was unsafe.[8]
    • If you've had experiences that are similar, it's okay to bring these up as well.
    • Avoid bringing other people's perspective into the conversation, because that will make your friend feel like others are ganging up on her. For example, saying things like, "My other friend was saying how freaked out she was by your behavior last week," is unlikely to further your conversation.
    • If your friend gets defensive, don't argue with her by bringing up other people who support you. It's okay to say, "I hear you, and I care about you."
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    Avoid overgeneralizations. Saying things like, "You always..." or "You never..." is likely to make your friend feel defensive. Instead, stick to situations that you can talk about in specific ways. For example, "Last Thursday, when we were out together, I was worried when you decided to leave with someone you'd just met that night."[9]
    • It will help to provide specific reasons why you're concerned, from your own perspective.
    • Remember to remind her that you're concerned about her health and safety. If you can, try to stay on topic without getting emotional.
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    Pay attention to your friend's reaction. If she's genuinely surprised, you can help provide her with good information about safe sex. If she's defensive and angry, it might be because she's embarrassed. If she laughs it off, remind her that STDs and HIV are serious issues, but don't pressure her to talk more about it.[10]
    • Reassure her that you're not mad at her, and that you're only trying to be helpful.
    • Make sure you offer to help her access more information about safe sex, including where to get condoms.
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    Help your friend plan new behaviors. Be ready to help your friend consider safer sexual habits, if she seems open to your help. For example, if she's willing to go with you to the health clinic and get tested, be prepared to call and make an appointment. Or, better yet, take her to a clinic right away.[11]
    • If drinking or drugs are contributing to the issue of safe sex, have the phone numbers or locations of organizations that can help her learn to live sober.
    • Don't be too bossy. Instead, let her guide this part of the conversation. Your friend is the best decider of what she's ready to change.
    • Remember that she might not be ready for your help yet. Some people take longer to process information than others. Don't be surprised or put off if your friend doesn't ask for your help right away.

Method 3
Talking With a Potential Partner

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    Be prepared for an honest conversation. If you have any sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) or are HIV-positive, this is a conversation you'll need to have before you engage in sexual activity. Make sure to set aside enough time that you don't feel rushed or pressured.
    • If this is the first time you've ever had this conversation, remember that he's probably nervous too.
    • Remember that this isn't a conversation about moral values, but about good health.
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    Ask if he's ever been tested for STDs. If you're planning on having safe sex with a new partner, it's your right to know if you're putting yourself at risk for an STD. Keep your question direct and to the point:
    • "Have you been tested for STDs?" or "When were you last tested or STDs?"
    • "What were the results?"
    • You can also tell him what you need: "Before we have sex, I need us both to be tested for STDs."
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    Make sure you get tested for STDs. These tests can be done by most health clinics for a low price. Because many STDs don't have obvious symptoms, you might not know whether you have an STD or not unless you get tested.[12]
    • If you're under 18, you may need a parents' permission to be tested for STDs. Laws vary by state.
    • Any time you've had unprotected sex (sex without a barrier) with another person, you're putting yourself at risk for an STD.
    • To put your mind at ease, get tested for STDs after every unprotected sexual encounter.
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    Be prepared. The only real way to prevent STDs is to use barriers to protect you from contact with another person's body fluid. Using male condoms or female condoms are essential for having safe sex. If you're going to talk about having safe sex with a potential sex partner, you'll want to be prepared with the equipment to practice safe sex.[13]
    • Condoms can be purchased at most drug stores, pharmacies, or grocery stores. Your medical provider or health clinic might have free samples that you can use.
    • If you're allergic to latex, try latex-free condoms. Both latex and non-latex have similar success rates, but non-latex are often more expensive.[14]
    • Remember that birth control doesn't prevent STDs.
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    Be direct and straightforward. The simpler you can keep this conversation, the better it's likely to go. Remember that this is a conversation about health concerns, not value judgments.[15] You can start a conversation about safe sex by saying things like:
    • "Getting tested for STDs before we have sex will help us both."
    • "I don't think there's any sense in taking chances when we can know for sure."
    • "I really care about you, and I want to make sure we're both healthy."
    • "We can enjoy having sex much more if we both know that we're healthy."
    • "Using condoms is totally sexy for me."

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Categories: Reproductive Health