If you know you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), then you have to tell your sexual partners, no matter how hard that can be. They need to know to get treated and take precautions to prevent the spread of disease.
Why? Their health is at risk, so they need to know what's going on. They may not know it and could be passing it around. It's natural to feel embarrassed, even scared, at the thought of telling anyone.
How to tell:
- It's best to be direct. You could start by saying, “I’ve had a discharge and an itch since we had sex, have you been tested for STIs?” Or "Before we have sex, I want us to talk about STIs and protection. Because I’ve had an STI and I want to be sure you don’t get it."
- It's best to be honest. You may worry about rumours spreading — but you can’t really hide an STI for long. Your partner will find out.
- If you and your partner have already had sex, stop. Stop until you can both get tested. If you have a curable STI, you will probably both need to take medicine as part of your treatment.
- Some STIs can affect fertility later in life if they're not treated. Some can also affect a pregnancy and be passed from a mother to her child during pregnancy or birth.
- If you're treated for a curable STI but your partner isn't, you can get re-infected.
- Check them out: Look carefully at your body and your lover's (especially the genitals), checking for a bad smell, an unusual discharge, sores, bumps, itching, or redness. If you think you or your partner may have an infection, don't touch the sores or have sex. Make an excuse and bail.
- Even if you do check them out, remember that people can be infected with an STI, such as herpes or HIV, and look completely healthy. Many people with STIs have no signs or symptoms and don’t know they have it, so how would you know?
Talking about safe sex and STI’s can be awkward. It’s a part of growing up. Most STIs are easily treated. But if you ignore them they won’t go away.
Scared to ask your partner to test for HIV? Read our cheat sheet below: