I'm 16. My parents don't know about my boyfriend and I'm afraid to tell them because my culture is so strict. We have had sex twice, and I want to see a doctor to make sure everything is OK and I didn't catch an STD. But if I tell my parents, I will have to stop seeing my boyfriend and I will lose all my privileges. I know I should get checked. What should I do?
Mira*

In a perfect world, we could talk to our parents about anything. Their life experience means parents can offer insight and advice on all sorts of situations. It's surprising how often having that awkward conversation turns out to be a positive experience for both you and your parent.

But, if you really can't talk to your folks, you still need to make your health a priority. That includes protecting yourself against STDs and unplanned pregnancy.

In most states, once you are 13, you can get checked and tested for STDs without a parent's involvement. Many family doctors or pediatricians will agree to treat their teen patients confidentially. That means they won't tell parents or anyone else unless you say it's OK. So you may be able to ask your own doctor if he or she will do so.

If you're worried about insurance or have other reasons why you don't want to see your family doctor or pediatrician, you can get tested for STDs at a health clinic like Planned Parenthood. It's confidential, and you also can get information about birth control and condoms. You also can search the Internet Sexuality Information Services site at www.inspot.org to find a health clinic in your area.

Some schools also run health clinics during school hours. Again, these are usually confidential — ask first to be sure.

It's great you're aware that having sex can affect your health. It is never too late to start protecting yourself and using condoms is great way to prevent pregnancy and STDs until you can get in to see a doctor or nurse practitioner . Putting wellness first is one way we can take responsibility and control over our lives!

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

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