How to take a patient’s sexual history

3 min

Taking an accurate and appropriate sexual history is crucial to patient health, especially for STI prevention and management. Not only can it assist you in screening for and assessing a wide range of sexual health issues, but you can use it to guide treatment and patient education.

Around 92% of GPs and nurse practitioners feel “comfortable and confident” taking a sexual history1, but only 29% say they’d ask about sexual orientation or practices if a patient talked about them or mentioned STI symptoms2.  

To help make it easier for you and your patients, here’s a helpful overview of how to take a sexual history. 

Tips for respectful and inclusive sexual history taking

It’s important to reassure patients about privacy and that any information they share is confidential. Ensure there’s a clear understanding of how they’d like to be contacted if a follow-up is required5.

Seek your patient’s permission before starting to take their sexual history6. It can help to normalise the conversation when initiating the discussion.

For example, during a consultation with a new patient7, you could say, “I ask all of my new patients these questions so that I can gain a full understanding of their health. Is it ok if I ask some specific questions about your sexual history?”

To help patients feel comfortable starting conversations about their health, use inclusive and respectful language and adopt a non-judgemental attitude8. Ask about their preferred terms for body parts.

How to get the conversation started

Example sexual health history questions

The following are some examples of questions you could ask as part of a sexual health check-up.

Sexual health history considerations for specific populations 

You may need to do a more detailed sexual health risk assessment for some groups who may be at higher risk of infection or more likely to experience adverse health outcomes.

You can find more information about key affected populations and STI management considerations here


Health practitioners
Sexual health

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