Should you Talk About STIs? Should you Get Tested for Them?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that can pass from one person to another through sexual contact, instead of through coughing, or a cut.

Sometimes people feel embarrassed to talk about them with people who they might have sex with. But talking about them is a good way to make it less likely you’ll catch one.

Sometimes people feel embarrassed or nervous to go get tested for them. In this episode we also talk about what it’s like to get tested for STIs at an Options for Sexual Health Clinic.


Want More?


Options for Sexual Health operates clinics where you can get tested, and a phone line / email service where you can ask sexual health questions.

Sex Sense Line: 1-800-SEX-SENSE

Smart Sex Resource is a website with lots of information about sexually transmitted infections, plus a google map of every STI clinic in British Columbia


What we Talk About and Why

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

STIs are viruses or bacteria. They don’t have brains, so they don’t have any opinions on our sex lives. They’re not punishment for ‘bad behaviour’ any more than catching a cold is punishment for going out to a coffee shop where someone else has a cold. They’re just tiny organisms that have evolved an ingenious way to pass from one person to another.

STIs are just a fact of life like colds or cavities. Nonetheless we may find them embarrassing, and not talk about them. Or we may exaggerate the dangers of STIs because we think it will scare people away from having sex and thus prevent them from ever catching one. (Statistics show this doesn’t work very well.)

If STIs go untreated, they can cause serious health problems. There are a number of reasons why people with cognitive disabilities may not get testing or treatment even if they are at risk:

  • They may not have information about STIs because their supporters aren’t talking about them.
  • They may know about them but feel ashamed to admit that they’ve caught one.
  • They may feel terrified because they’ve heard how dangerous STIs can be.
  • Their family or staff may not know that they’re having sex, so telling someone they want to get tested or treated means admitting they’re sexually active.

In our videos people give accurate medical information about STIs, and de-stigmatize them as simply a part of life. This can help people feel more comfortable to access any medical care they may need.

Safer Sex and Contraception

Some adults with cognitive disabilities are having sex. Some of them may be having consensual  sex that their support networks know about. Some may be having consensual sex that their support networks do not know about. Some may be experiencing sexual abuse.

People in each of these situations may have more options to prevent unplanned pregnancies or prevent STIs if they have information about contraception and safer sex. This information can save lives.

Providing a person with information about contraception and safer sex is not the same thing as recommending that they should have sex. Ideally a person should have information about contraception and safer sex long before they actually begin having sex. So even people with cognitive disabilities  who are NOT having sex can benefit from having information on contraception and safer sex.