How to tell your partner you have an STI
So you’ve been diagnosed with an STI, but now what? A positive test result for an STI, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomoniasis, carries a lot of weight with it — it can feel embarrassing, shameful, scary, and isolating — and the last thing you want to do is talk about it.
But, it’s so important to know that you have made a smart choice to take care of your sexual health. STIs are super common, and are very treatable. Though they’re not easy to talk about, it’s important to share this news with your partner(s), so they can make the same important decisions you made to protect themselves, their partners, and to help prevent the spread.
We know it sounds daunting, but we’ll walk you through it, step by step, to do what’s best for you and your partner(s).
1. Be gentle with yourself
There are a lot of taboos around sex and sexual health, but it’s a completely natural part of life. An important first step, before you call your partner(s), is to check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What are you telling yourself about this? Are you passing judgment on yourself?
Take some deep breaths. You are taking the right steps to take care of your health, and helping your partner(s) do the same. And that’s something to be proud of. Remember: STIs are very common and while you maybe haven’t heard people talking about their experiences with STIs, more people than you know have had one before. Before sharing the news with anyone, make sure you take a moment for yourself and give yourself compassion.
2. Be gentle with your partner(s)
When you test positive for an STI, your mind may go right to who you may have contracted it from. You may jump to worst-case scenarios about your STI diagnosis, or begin passing strong judgments against them. Before you dig too deep, take a step back and consider they’ll likely experience the same mixed emotions you felt when you heard the news. Remember that you’re telling your partner(s) to help them protect themselves, you, and any future partners they may have. Remind yourself that if the roles were reversed, you would want to know, too.
3. Be direct and honest
Now it’s time to let them know. Again, deep breaths. You’ve got this.
Does this warrant an in-person conversation? Or would a text or phone call suffice? Our philosophy is: telling someone is better than not telling someone. It’s all about your comfort level. If a text message feels best for your situation, that’s perfectly fine.
If you’re not comfortable telling them yourself, there are tools available that allow you to anonymously notify partners they’ve been exposed to an STI, such as Tell Your Partner. They’ll send a simple, empowering text to let them know, without disclosing who may have exposed them, and give them resources to get tested.
Whatever way you choose to give them a heads up, remember that you’ve done a great thing to help them protect themselves.
“Hey, I got tested for STIs to make sure I was safe, and I tested positive for [your test result]. I wanted to tell you right away so you can take care of yourself too.”
“Hi! I had my yearly STI screening and I came back positive for [your test result]. I think you may have been exposed too. Do you want to talk?”
“Hey, I know we haven’t talked in a little while, but I wanted to let you know I recently tested positive for [your test result]. I figured you should know so you can get checked out too. Let me know if you have any questions. Hope you’re doing well.”
4. Let them process
Let your partner(s) process, react, and ask questions. They may be confused, shocked, angry, sad, or anxious. Or they might go completely silent. There’s a multitude of ways your partner(s) could react to your STI diagnosis, and everyone reacts differently, so allow them to process it and react how they are going to react. Give them space if they need it, or talk it out. Let the conversation flow how it’s going to.
“I know this is shocking to hear, but I knew this was the right thing to do. I’m here to help you process, answer any questions, or share the resources they gave me. I’m happy to give you space if you’d prefer that. How can I best support you?”
“It’s a lot to process, I know. I’m happy to talk this through, or give you space. It’s up to you, just know that I’m here to help however you need.”
5. Get STI treatment discreetly, quickly, and affordably
When your partner(s) find out they’ve been exposed to an STI, they’ll likely start to worry about how they’ll get tested and treated themselves. Making an appointment to go talk to a doctor about it can feel stressful and embarrassing. Thankfully, they can be treated quickly, discreetly, and privately online. Because you tested positive, they can be treated without a confirmed positive test themselves. It’s easy to start a visit with Virtuwell, answer a few questions, and confirm they’ve been exposed to an STI. From there one of our certified nurse practitioners will create a treatment plan and send a prescription for preventative STI treatment to their preferred pharmacy.
“There’s this online treatment option that I’m going to use called Virtuwell. Because I tested positive and we had sex, you don’t have to get tested yourself to get treated. I can send you the link to get started or learn more if that would be helpful.”
“I got tested with an at-home test kit through Virtuwell and they offer same-day treatment for my partner too. It’s all done privately online just by answering a few questions. I can share a link with you if you’d like to do that.”
6. Stick to your STI treatment plan
When you and your partner(s) are being treated, make sure to stick to the guidelines of your STI treatment plan to avoid reinfecting you or your partner(s). Your treatment plan may request you put a pause on sexual activity until you’re negative and can’t pass it along. You can also use this as an opportunity to talk to your partner(s) about how to prevent future STIs. In order to stay safe and keep your partner(s) safe, it’s so important to follow the STI treatment guidelines of your medical provider.
“I really don’t want to go through the stress or put you at risk again. Can we talk about using protection next time to protect both of us from future exposures?”
“I’m going to pick up my antibiotics later today. I’ll likely grab some condoms (or dental dams) too. My care team recommended I wait to have sex again until I’ve finished treatment to make sure we’re safe.”
“My treatment plan offered recommendations for preventing future STIs. Let me know if you want that information too.”
Recover and stay safe
Positive STI results are daunting, frustrating, and anxiety-producing, but you’ve done the right thing. Getting tested consistently is a crucial aspect of protecting your sexual health. Your partner(s) will appreciate the fact that you told them, and with the help of Virtuwell, you and your partner(s) can get treated quickly and discreetly for an STI.
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