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The idea of talking about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) with a partner can be more than enough to get your undies in a bunch.
“It’s like a bunch of knots that goes up your backside and into your belly.”
“It doesn’t have to be a big deal.”
Here’s how to talk about your results depending on your situation — like with a new, current, or past partner.
Talking about test results face to face could pose safety concerns in some situations.
If you are worried that your partner will get aggressive or violent, then you should text.
In an ideal world, everyone would be able to sit and have a heart-to-heart that ends with a hug of understanding and gratitude.
“Since the world isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, a text is better than not telling them at all.”
We have your back, but this is the hard part.
These tips can help make things easier, no matter what the deal is with the person.
Do your research
They are likely to have questions or concerns so you should gather as much information as you can before the talk.
Do your research about the STI so you can be fully confident when telling them how it can be transmitted, and about symptoms and treatment.
Have resources ready
Emotions may be running high, so a partner might not hear or process everything you share. Have tools ready that’ll help answer their questions. This way they can process things on their own time.
These should include a link to a credible organization like the
Pick the right place and time
Wherever you feel safest and most comfortable is where you should reveal your status. It should be private so you can talk without being interrupted.
“This isn’t a conversation you should have when you’re drunk, not on booze, love, or sex. That means clothes on and not drinking.”
Be prepared that they might get upset
People make assumptions about how and why it happens. We are working on it, but it is blamed on less-than-stellar sex-ed programs and stigmas.
STIs don’t mean a person’s dirty, and they don’t always mean that someone cheated.
“Even if they know this, they might still be angry and accuse you. Don’t take it personally.”
Try to stay calm
Your delivery is a part of your message. The tone for the conversation will be set by how you come off.
“If you believe you contracted the STD from them, try not to be a blame game player. It won’t change your results and will only make the conversation harder.”
Telling a previous partner
It is the responsible thing to tell an ex you have an STD. Even if you stuck a pin in a doll.
Resisting the urge to revisit old arguments is what you want to keep the conversation on topic.
Are you stuck on what to say? There are a few examples. You can use them as a script, copy and paste them into a text or email, or both.
- “My clinician recommended that my previous partners get tested for this after I was diagnosed with INSERT STI. It doesn’t always cause symptoms, so you should still be tested to be safe.”
- “I went in for a screening and found out I have a sexually transmitted disease. The doctor thinks it is important that my previous partners are tested. I didn’t show any symptoms, but you should get tested anyways.”
Telling a current partner
If you are diagnosed with an STD while you are in a relationship, it is understandable to question your trust in a partner.
“Did they know they had it and didn’t tell you? Did they cheat? They may be feeling the same depending on the situation.”
Mild symptoms are the only thing that cause a lot of STIs. It is possible that you contracted it before you were together.
“If you are already in the loop about individual testing or plans to test, a talk about your results won’t be a total surprise.”
Full transparency is important, so have your results ready to show. You will want to be transparent about what the results mean for them. For instance:
- Do they need to be treated?
- Do you need to use barrier protection?
- Do you need to stop having sex for a while?
“If you can’t say anything, here’s what to say.”
- I got my test results back and I tested positive for it. The doctor prescribed a medication for me to take. I will be tested again to make sure it is gone. You probably have questions, so ask away.
- My results came back positive. I care about you so I got all the information I could about my treatment, what it means for our sex life, and any precautions we have to take. What do you want to know?
- My results are negative, but I need to stay on top of testing and be safe. Here is what the clinician recommended.
Telling a new partner
“If you are trying to get someone to like your best moves, they probably won’t. Sharing your status with a new partner is not really a good idea, especially if it is just a short-lived relationship.”
The best way to handle this is to let the person rip like a bandage and then text or say it.
If you decide to have the talk in person, you should choose a safer setting, like a restaurant, in case things get uncomfortable.
Here are some examples of what you can say.
- We should talk about status before we hook up. I will go first. I had a last screen that was [insert date] and I am a participant in the program. How about you?
- I have it. I take medication to treat it. I thought it was something you needed to know before we took things further. I am sure you have questions, so fire away.
Telling a partner anonymously
“It’s a wonderful time to be alive. You can be a decent human and let your partner know that you need to get tested, but you can’t call them.”
In some states, healthcare professionals offer the
“If you don’t want a clinician to do it, there are online tools that will let you text or email your previous partners. They are free, easy to use, and don’t require sharing personal information.”
There are a few options.
Sharing your status and bringing up testing are the same things.
- Pick the right place and time to speak.
- If they have questions about testing, have information on hand.
- They might not be as open to discussing STDs as you are.
The most important thing to remember is that STI testing is a matter of health and keeping you each safe. It’s not about shaming, accusing, or implying anything, so mind your tone and keep it respectful.
Let’s look at some tips that can make it easier depending on your current sitch.
With a current partner
Even if you’ve already had sex, you need to talk about testing. This applies whether you had sex without a barrier in the heat of the moment or if you’ve been together a while and are considering ditching barrier protection altogether.
There are some ways to bring it up.
- If we are going to keep doing it, we should be tested.
- If we are going to stop using dental dams/condoms, we need to be tested. To be safe.
- “I will be having my routine screening soon. Why don’t we get tested together?”
- I have had it and it is a good idea for you to get tested even if we have been careful.
With a new partner
“Don’t let new butterflies stop you from talking about testing with a new partner.”
You want to bring it up before you get your pants on so that you can both think clearly. It is still cool to bring it up if you get caught pants-down.
Here is what to say.
- I think we should talk about getting tested for STDs because I feel like sex might be in the cards for us soon.
- I always get tested before having sex. When was your last test?
- “We should use protection since we haven’t been tested yet.”
When each partner should test for STIs
- You are about to have sex with a new person.
- You have many partners.
- Your partner has cheated on you.
- You and your partner are considering abandoning barrier protection.
- You or a partner have symptoms of an STD.
If you have symptoms, you may want to get tested more frequently.
If you’re in a long-term monogamous relationship, you might not need to get tested as often — think once a year, minimum — as long as you were both tested before entering the relationship.
If you were, it is possible that you have had an undetected infection for years. Get tested to make sure you are safe.
Sex practices begin before you have sex. Before you get busy, you can do some things that can help reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting a sexually transmitted disease.
- Have an honest talk with potential partners about your sexual histories.
- Don’t have sex when you’re incapacitated.
- Get the HPV and hepatitis B vaccines.
When actually getting down to it, use a latex or polyurethane barrier for all types of sex. This includes:
- using external or internal condoms during penetrative vaginal or anal sex
- using condoms or dental dams for oral sex
- using gloves for manual penetration
- using a condom on sex toys or cleaning toys before (and after) sharing
There are things you can do after sex, too, to help keep you safe. Rinse off after sex to remove any infectious material from your skin and urinate after sex to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.
How common are STIs?
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s cleared by a run of antibiotics or hanging around for the long haul.”
And another mind-boggling little factoid: More than 1 million STIs are acquired every day worldwide, according to the
How are STIs transmitted?
“You probably don’t know that STIs are contracted in more ways than you think.”
There are two ways in which bodily fluids and skin-to-skin contact can spread an infectious disease.
Should you get tested for STIs if you don’t have any symptoms?
“If you are sexually active, then you should. Most common STDs don’t cause symptoms, so being asymptomatic doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.”
When should you get tested for STIs?
Yearly STI testing is recommended for all sexually active people. It’s also a good idea to get tested if You are about to have sex with a new person. or planning to stop using barrier protection.
If you or a partner have symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease, if you or a partner has multiple partners, or if a partner has cheated on you, you should be tested more frequently. A healthcare professional can help you.
Can you get tested for STIs on your period?
Absolutely! If you prefer to wait a couple of days, that is cool.
Although your period blood won’t affect standard STIs or HIV tests, it could mess with your Pap test results if your flow is heavy. Some healthcare professionals do an HPV test while they’re down there, so check with them beforehand to be sure.
Do you need to tell a partner if you test positive for an STI?
Yes. If you test positive, you will need to tell your partners if you have exposed them. You need to tell them if you are going to engage in any type of sexual activity with them.
These conversations aren’t fun, but they help break the chain of infection.
A talk about testing and status can help prevent the transmission of STIs and lead to earlier detection and treatment, which can help avoid complications.
This is important because many STIs are often asymptomatic until they cause problems.
Plus, it’s just a decent thing to do. A partner deserves to know so they can be free to decide how to proceed. The same goes for you when it comes to their status.
If you’d rather not do it yourself, many healthcare providers offer patient notification services. There are also several online options, like Tell your partner., that provide anonymous notification.
Mild symptoms of some STIs can go undetected, but knowing what signs and symptoms to look for is important.
Any of these should prompt a consultation with a doctor or other healthcare professional.
- unusual discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus
- There is burning or itching in the genital region.
- Changes in pee.
- vaginal bleeding
- Pain during sex.
- Lower abdominal pain.
- There are bumps or sores.
Talking with a partner about STDs is not bad. Sex is normal, STIs are more common than ever, and there is no shame in wanting to protect yourself or a partner.
Take a deep breath and get yourself with information and resources. There is always texting.
“Arida Santos- Longhurst is a writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. She can be found frolicking around her beach town with her husband and dogs, or trying to master the stand-up paddleboard, when she isn’t holed up in her writing shed.”