Get Yourself Talking

A sexual history is important for identifying those at risk for STDs and other conditions.
A sexual history...
  • Helps to guide risk-reduction counseling and to identify indicated STD screening tests.
  • Needs to be taken during a patient’s initial visit, during routine preventive exams, and when you see signs of STDs.
  • Can be taken by the clinician as part of the history and physical, or done by the patient as a self-administered questionnaire.

When talking to patients, remember that respect, compassion, and a non-judgmental attitude are essential. It helps to use open-ended questions, and understandable, normalizing language. For example, it may help to tell patients that you ask everyone these questions; that you aren’t singling anyone out for any reason. Finally, assure patients that the information is important for the best care possible, and explicitly reinforce confidentiality.

This site offers resources and tools for sexual-history taking and risk-reduction counseling.

PLEASE NOTE: These resources are meant to provide samples of discussion points and questions that may be asked of patients; they are not meant to be standards for diagnosis or complete references for sexual history taking or risk-reduction counseling.

Tools for talking with adolescents, from the Sexual Health: Adolescent Provider Toolkit. Source: Adolescent Health Working Group (2010).
A Guide to Sexual History Taking—Provides an overview of the five “P’s” of sexual history taking (Partners, Practices, Past history of STDs, Pregnancy, Protection from STDs), with question prompts for teen and adult patients (4 pages). Source: The California STD/HIV Prevention Training Center.

Guide To Taking A Sexual History—Free pocket guide can be ordered online. Source: CDC.

Sexual History Form - Self-administered patient questionnaire (1 page; may be adapted for your clinic population). Note: This form may be used to supplement existing patient intake form(s) or medical records; it is not intended as a stand-alone tool. Resources are available (below) to guide you through risk-reduction counseling.

Sexual History-Taking: Focus on STIs—Features a pre-recorded audio conference and four demonstration videos (dramatizations) of sexual history-taking interviews. Includes a Sexual History Taking Guide, and additional resources as appendices: Comfort Scale Self-Assessment, Sample History Forms, and a ‘Questions to Ask’ Pocket Guide. Intended for providers & staff in family planning clinics. Source: Center for Health Training.

STD/HIV Risk Reduction: A Quick Reference Guide—Provides risk-reduction counseling and motivational interviewing techniques, as well as specific questions related to sexual activity and history, drug use, and other risk factors (16 pages). Also available in Spanish (19 pages). Source: Mountain Plains AIDS Education & Training Center.


Adolescent Reproductive Health Education Project (ARHEP) Standardized Case Videos (by Physicians for Reproductive Choice & Health) - Thirteen vignettes depicting brief segments of clinical interactions between providers and their adolescent patients. Order for free.