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Telling Your Partner You Have an STD

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that spread from person to person during vaginal, oral, or anal sex; by using fingers ("fingering"); or by other sexual contact.

If you find out that you have an STD, get treated and tell your partner and any past partners right away.

Why Do I Need to Tell My Partners?

An STD that isn’t treated can spread and cause serious health problems for you and your sex partners.

Here are more reasons to tell a partner:

  • Letting a past or current partner know gives that person the chance to see a doctor and get treated.
  • Telling partners you haven’t had sex yet with shows them that you care about them and their health.
  • Getting treated for an STD when your partner isn’t having treatment could mean that person can pass it back to you.
  • Not telling a partner about an STD after your doctor has diagnosed you may be illegal in some states.

How Do I Tell a Partner About an STD?

It’s normal to be nervous about having the talk because everyone reacts differently. But it’s best for your partner or any past partners to hear it from you. You wouldn’t someone to learn they have an infection before you say something.

Here’s how to have the talk:

Imagine your roles are reversed. If your partner was the one with an STD, what would you expect that person to do and say? Being willing to have this hard talk shows that you care about your partner and your relationship.

Be direct. If you haven’t had sex yet, you could start by saying, "Before we have sex, I want us to talk about STDs and protection (like condoms) because I have an STD." If you’ve had sex with your partner, that person may have given it to you. Or you may have gotten the STD in a previous relationship.

Say what type of STD you have. You don't have to share every detail of your past relationships. But showing that you're open to talking and answering questions can help your partner feel more comfortable.

Get ready for different reactions. Prepare for your partner to be surprised. People will react differently. They might panic, have lots of questions, or need time to think. Listen rather than doing all the talking.

Don't push your partner to make decisions about sex or your relationship right away. It's normal to want your partner to accept and reassure you after you reveal such personal information. But give the other person some space. Make a suggestion like, "I know you probably want some time to think about this." It shows you're confident and in control.

Encourage your partner to ask questions. As you talk, give your partner the facts about the STD. If you can't answer every question, that's OK. Say you don't know and then search online together, talk with your doctor, or go to a health clinic to learn more.

What Else Should I Know?

If you’ve had sex with your partner, they should be tested, and possibly treated, for the STD. After your partner is treated, don’t have sex for 2 weeks to make sure you don’t give the same infection back to each other. After you're having sex again, get tested for STDs regularly and use a condom the right way every time you have sex.

It may be awkward, but telling partners about STDs is the right thing to do. If you think you have an STD or have questions, talk with a doctor or visit a sexual health clinic (like Planned Parenthood) or student health center.

Reviewed by: Lonna P. Gordon, MD
Date Reviewed: Jan 9, 2024

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