STIs (sexually transmitted infections), also known as STDs, are stigmatized in our society. We associate having an STI with being immoral or promiscuous. This may not be the case, but it still makes telling your current, former, or new partner about an STI difficult.
Why should I tell my partner?
If you think you may have exposed a partner to an STI or gotten an STI from your partner, you should tell them.
They may already be or become infected and not develop symptoms
They may pass the infection on to others without knowing
They will know to get tested and seek treatment
They will not reinfect you after you are treated
If you have a chronic STI, which cannot be cured, you and your partner can get help to prevent infection and control the symptoms
Most importantly your partner has a right to know the risks involved. Wouldn't you want to know if the shoe was on the other foot?
How to talk to your partner about STIs
You should not wait too long to tell your partner, but you should be prepared to make it easier on you and your partner. Below is a list of tips to make the conversation go more smoothly:
Reflect on how it made you feel to find out about your STI.
Practice how you are going to tell your partner.
Think about how your partner may react.
Learn about the STI, this way you can help your partner feel informed and more in control.
Find a private place to talk without distractions.
Warn your partner, make sure your partner knows you are about to deliver some serious new so they can brace themselves.
Give your partner time to react; you cannot expect them to be okay with it right away.
Remember your partner is not required to keep this a secret. They may need support from friends and family.
Apologize let your partner know how you feel. Ensure them that you take it seriously and you will seek treatment.
Be honest if your partner has questions.
Refer your partner to get tested. You should both know your status to prevent re-infection.
Discovering an STI in a monogamous relationship
Finding out you have an STI when you're in a faithful relationship can be unsettling and confusing.
Do not blame your partner before you hear what they have to say.
Some STIs lack symptoms; this STI could be from before your relationship began.
Tell your partner that you discovered you have an STI.
Ask your partner to be tested for their own health.
Avoid becoming defensive.
How do I tell a former partner about an STI?
Talk to your health care provider. They should be able to confidentially contact former partners on your behalf.
There are also notification options using eCards. You will be asked to provide what STI your ex-partners may have been exposed to. The card will provide information about the condition and local testing and treatment options.
Self-care and prevention
When entering a new relationship get tested before having sex. This will help prevent infecting one another and having to have this conversation when it is already too late. Remember, you or your partner could have an STI even if there are no symptoms.
Learn more about STD testing at Hall Health
Check out Hall Health's health information articles on STIs and sexual health.
Public Health-Seattle & King County STD Clinic
Planned Parenthood's STD resources
Tell your partner about an STD through inSPOT's ecard service
SexInfoOnline (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Sexetc.org, a website by and for teens
STD Partner Notification: What About My Partners? (PDF from Texas Department of Health)
Over the phone
Over the phone
You can call the National STD Hotline for more information a at 1-800-227-8922, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
If you have any questions and are a UW student or established Hall Health patient, you may call one of our Consulting Nurses for further information.
Authored by: Hall Health Health Promotion staff
Reviewed by: Hall Health Health Promotion staff, January 2014