Condoms on veggies

Let's talk about (safe) sex

February 24, 2021
Author: Healthy U Cowichan

Health tips from VIU Nursing students

Talking about sexually transmitted infections with a potential partner is awkward at the best of times. Healthy U Cowichan, a group of VIU nursing students focused on raising awareness about health topics that impact students, has some tips to help you bring up the subject with a new partner(s). But first, a little background …


What is an STI?

An STI is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a bacteria, virus or parasite that can be passed (transmitted) between one individual to another through unprotected oral, vaginal (frontal) or anal sex. Some types of STIs can be passed from intimate contact, meaning intercourse is not required.

Signs & Symptoms

Some STIs may not show any symptoms or sometimes the symptoms are easy to miss or may last a short time. However, regardless of if you show symptoms of an STI or not, you can still pass an STI to your sexual partner(s). Some symptoms of STIs include:

  • Discharge from penis
  • Changes in vaginal discharge
  • Bumps, sores or a rash on the genital area (penis, vagina or anus)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Burning or unusual feeling when urinating
  • Pain in the pelvis or testicles
  • Pain during sexual activity and intercourse

If you have symptoms of an STI or think you have an STI without symptoms it is important you get tested at your local health clinic. If you are being treated for an STI, wait until you have finished your medication before resuming in vaginal, oral or anal sex.

Looking up symptoms of an STI on the Internet:

Using the Internet to diagnose your STI is not advised. Pictures on the Internet normally show STIs at their worst with very obvious symptoms. Your symptoms may not be visible or may be similar to other problems that need different treatments. To be safe, seek out your health provider or local health clinic.

How to reduce the chance of getting an STI

  • Get tested: If you have an STI and it goes untreated, you can pass it on to your sexual partners and cause serious health problems for yourself. When seeing a new sexual partner, getting tested before having sex can help to prevent STI transmission.
  • Know your options: know about sexual activities and its relations to STIs. Lots of sexual activities that don’t involve sexual intercourse feel good! Choose what you feel comfortable with!
  • Maintain open communication with partners: Open conversations with partners is important when having safe sexual activities.
  • Use protection: Use a new condom every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex.

For more information, go to the BC Centre for Disease Control’s Smart Sex Resource website.

Bringing up STIs with your partner(s)

Open communication with your partner(s) is important in any type of relationship. Here are some tips when talking with your partner about potentially awkward topics:

Getting tested for STIs with your partner:

  • When to talk about it? The best time is usually before having sex, but it is still a good idea for all partners to get tested even if you have already had sex.
  • Things you can say to go get tested with your partner:
    • “Just so you know, the last time I got tested was four months ago. What about you?”
    • “I think we should both get checked... want to go together?”

Getting tested for STIs when you might have one:

Things to say to your sexual partner when you need to get tested for an STI:

  • “I just found out I might have something and I am worried about you. I'll come to the clinic with you if you want.”
  • “I just learned that a person I was with a while ago has an STI. I want us both to get tested just in case.”

When to talk about it?

When you discover you have an STI, inform your sexual partners soon so they can get tested and treated. Anyone you had anal, oral or vaginal sex with may have the same STI. Let your partner know where to get tested. Your partner (s) may be upset. Try not to take it personally. They may need time to react to the information as well. Try to tell them in a calm, confident manner. Telling your partners that they need to get tested is a way of showing you care about their health.

Talking with your partner about what you like: 

  • Things you can say:
    • “I like it when…”
    • “That feels good.”
    • “Can you do it like this?”
    • “Can we do that again?”
    • “Let's remember that position for next time!”
  • When to talk about it? Anytime that feels right with you whether its during sex or at a different time.
  • Be understanding:
    • Some people feel shy about asking for what they want during sex.
    • If you notice your partner is shy, ask them what they like and encourage them.
    • Open communication makes for better sex.

Talking to your partner about wanting to use protection:

  • Things you can say:
    • “Do you have a condom, or should I get one of mine?”
    • “We can do other things if we don't have a condom.”
    • “I know we’ve already had sex without condoms, but I feel better knowing we're using protection.”
  • When to talk about it? Best to talk before sex. However, it can happen in the heat of the moment so be prepared on how you want to communicate with your partner and have a condom ready.
  • Know your facts: Using protection is an effective way to reduce many types of STIs. In many cases, STIs are passed on when people don’t know they have one.


Healthy U Cowichan is a group of nursing students working in the community and based out of VIU’s Cowichan Campus. If you have any further questions or health-related ideas you would like to see on the next blog post, please feel free to contact the Healthy U Crew at

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