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Preventing Sexually Transmitted Infections: Taking a Complete Sexual History

Methods for taking a history of sexual health

  • By the health care provider or a member of the clinical care team, during the visit.
  • Filled out by the patient in a paper or electronic form, and then reviewed with the provider during the visit.

Discussing sexual health: Setting the tone

The sexual history can come up naturally when talking with a patient as part of the social history. It can also be asked in relation to the patient’s past medical history or history of reproductive health. Before starting, let your patient know that you ask sexual history questions of all patients as part of their routine care.

You can use a statement such as:

"I am going to ask you some questions about your sexual history. I ask these questions at least once a year of all my patients because they are very important for your overall sexual health. Everything you tell me is confidential. Do you have any questions before we start?"

Deliver your questions in a sensitive and non-judgmental manner. The use of open-ended questions conveys to your patient that you are open to discussing different behaviors.

What should the sexual history cover?

Current resources on taking a sexual history focus on the "5 P's":

  • Partners—number and gender
  • Practices—types of sexual contact
  • Protection from STDs
  • Past history of STDs, and
  • Prevention of pregnancy

Sample Questions

Laboratory Testing for Extragenital CT and GC

The SOE has verified that laboratories that accept and process Aptima swabs for both oropharyngeal and rectal specimens include:

  • Alaska State Public Health Laboratory (ASPHL)
  • Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp)
  • Quest Diagnostics
  • Pathology Associates Medical Laboratories (PAML)

Providers are encouraged to contact those laboratories that are not listed above to assess the capacity for accepting and processing extragenital specimens.


For additional questions or resources please contact us at Section of Epidemiology HIV/STD Program 907-269-8000.

Additional Resources

  • A Guide to Taking a Sexual History
    A "How To" brochure with a focus on the "5 P's" with sample dialogue. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  • STD Current Management Strategies
    This resource by the California STD/HIV Prevention Training Center includes an 18-minute video on how to ask patients clinically important questions about their sexual health and risk for STDs and HIV in a clear and respectful manner. CME available—requires registration. 
  • Sexual History-Taking Toolkit
    Resource type: Toolkit, videos
    Target Audience: Clinical providers, medical assistants, nurses, reproductive health staf
  • Taking Routine Histories of Sexual Health: A System-Wide Approach for Health Centers
    A toolkit to assist in incorporation of comprehensive adult sexual health history taking by health care professionals.
    AETC National Resource Center.
  • Sexual History-Taking
    Online introduction to asking about sexual health issues.
  • Providing Optimal Care for you MSM* Patients discusses the major stigma related barriers that exist that hinder effective STD/HIV screening and outlines tools for health care providers to use for establishing confidentiality and effective STD management. Created by the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) and the National Association of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD). 
  • Sexual Health e-Learning Module. This 45-minute online module was developed by the Denver Prevention Training Center and the National LGBT† Health Education Training Center. The Sexually Transmitted Infections Core Knowledge (STIck) curriculum assists healthcare professionals to address the sexual health of their patients.

* MSM = Men who have sex with other men
† LGBT = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender