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How to tell your partner you have an STD

Medically reviewed on March 28, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Discovering that you have a sexually transmitted disease can certainly throw you for a loop. When you have sexual partner(s) you care about who might also be at risk, telling them can be just as stressful.

That said, there are several things you can do to make this tough task as simple as possible. Start by taking a deep breath—you’ve got this. Next, educate yourself about the specifics of your condition and plan for the conversation ahead of time. Then, proceed with honesty and openness.

This guide will walk you through how to tell your partner(s) you have an STD. Then, we’ll outline the follow-up steps you should take to ensure your sexual health and safety moving forward.

What’s the difference between an STI and an STD?

Before you can speak openly with your partner about your diagnosis, you should gather as much information about the disease as possible. Gaining a fuller understanding of your condition can help you view the situation with a broader perspective.

Furthermore, understanding your disease or infection will help you answer the questions your partner is likely to have.

The first thing you should learn is if you have an STI or an STD.


Sexually transmitted infections are the result of the initial contact your body has with a pathogen [1]. The pathogens that can cause an STI include:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Parasites

STIs can be transmitted in a variety of ways, most commonly including:

  • Skin-to-skin contact
  • Exchange of bodily fluids during sexual activities
  • Needle sharing

You may not be aware that you have an STI. Sometimes, an infection can even clear up on its own without you even realizing it was there in the first place. Other times, you may experience more obvious symptoms that stem from the infection. If symptoms develop or you suspect you’ve been exposed to an STI, it’s important to get treatment right away so that the infection can’t progress further.


Sexually transmitted diseases result from STIs. When an STI-causing pathogen gets into your body and begins to multiply, it can disrupt your body’s normal functions. You begin to feel symptoms more acutely and your health may suffer. This means the STI has developed into an STD.

All STDs begin as an STI. For example, the HPV virus is the most common STI around the world [2]. In most cases, HPV resolves on its own without any symptoms or without turning into a disease. Other times, it can cause health problems such as:

  • Genital warts
  • Cervical cancer
  • Throat cancer
  • Genital cancer

It’s not known exactly why some STIs, like HPV, develop into more serious diseases [3]. It might be because some people have weaker immune systems that are unable to fight off the infection before it progresses.

Regular screening for STIs is often the best way to monitor your sexual health and prevent more serious conditions from developing.

Helpful tips for disclosing an STI or STD to your partner(s)

Once you’ve learned the details of your condition, let’s talk about how you can approach telling your partner(s) about your diagnosis in the best possible manner. There are a few key points that may make a difficult conversation less intimidating, including:

  • Openness
  • Honesty
  • Listening
  • Giving space

We recommend approaching the conversation with your partner(s) in the following way.

#1: Practice what you want to say ahead of time

Practicing what you want to tell your partner(s) before you actually sit down to speak with them can help calm your nerves. It can also ensure that the conversation includes the important details you need to convey.

Some key points you should include are:

  1. The specifics – Tell your partner the specific diagnosis and whether or not you’ve experienced symptoms. You should also tell them if you’re undergoing treatment and what treatment options are available.
  2. The timeline – This can be quite difficult if you acquired the STI or STD after you began your relationship with your partner. If the two of you were in a monogamous relationship and you broke that trust, you may want to be prepared for your partner to respond with anger or sadness. If you’ve been faithful, then it might be possible you were infected by your partner or by a previous partner before your current relationship began.
  3. The future – You should also think about and practice saying what you want from the future of the relationship. An STD diagnosis doesn’t mean a sexual relationship has to end. Nevertheless, this could be an opportunity for those involved to re-evaluate priorities.

It might be useful to practice saying these remarks out loud in front of a mirror or to write them down so that you’re prepared when you’re face to face with your partner(s).

#2: Imagine that your roles are reversed

Picturing yourself in your partner’s shoes might also help make the conversation a little easier to have. As part of your preparation, you can imagine how you would feel if they were the one telling you that they had an STI or STD.

Consider the following:

  • What questions would you ask?
  • How would you feel about their diagnosis?
  • How would you handle your emotions?
  • What would you want from them moving forward?

Keep all of these questions in mind when you prepare your thoughts before you speak with them.

#3: Pick a safe space to have the conversation

Safety is not the same for everyone, so what’s most important is choosing a space that matches your specific safety needs. Coffee shops and bars can be excellent choices for a laid-back talks and casual chats or if it’s important to you to have this conversation in a public place. You may also want to opt for a quiet, private place, such as:

  • Your apartment or house
  • Your partner’s home
  • A quiet park or other outdoor space

If one or both of you has a roommate, consider planning to talk when the roommate is out. In situations where a free period at home isn’t possible, an open outdoor area might be a better option for privacy.

#4: Listen to and answer their questions honestly

After you’ve told your partner about your diagnosis, you should prepare yourself for their questions. While every situation is different, some common questions they might have include:

  • When did you acquire the infection?
  • Have you been unfaithful to your partner during your relationship?
  • When did you find out about your diagnosis?
  • Have you started treatment for your STI?
  • What, if any, treatment is available for the infection?
  • How likely is it that you’ve passed the infection on to them?

Even though the answers to some of these questions might be challenging to navigate, it’s important for both of your health that you be honest.

#5: Give your partner space to process the information

Lastly, you can probably expect your partner to have a rush of emotions. Prepare yourself for them to exhibit a range of emotions—from angry or frightened to worried or sad.

The best thing you can do for both of you is to give them the space they need to process the information. In the face of potential health risk, this space is a way for you to demonstrate respect for their needs.

Next steps—what happens after you tell your partner?

After you tell your partner about the diagnosis, there are several steps you (and they) will need to take, including:

  • Getting tested – It’s critical that your partner also gets tested for infection. If left untreated, many STIs can develop into more serious health problems. Furthermore, your partner could risk passing the infection on to others.
  • Awaiting results – You and your partner(s) should abstain from sex until after they’ve received their test results. Once they receive either a positive or negative result, you can speak with your healthcare professionals about the safest way to proceed with a sexual relationship.
  • Obtaining treatment – If your partner is also infected, they should begin treatment immediately. Treatments might include antibiotic, antiviral, or topical medications. The type and duration of treatment that you and your partner are prescribed depend on the type of STI or STD you have.

Moving forward, you should both stay on top of your symptoms (if any) and screen for STIs regularly.

Everlywell: testing for your sexual health needs

Telling your partner that you’ve been diagnosed with an STI or STD can be a difficult task—for both of you. While it may not be life-threatening, it’s still a subject that should be broached with care and empathy. Navigating the conversation with honesty and openness is the best approach for each party involved.

After you’ve shared your diagnosis, your partner(s) must get tested for sexually transmitted infections or diseases. If left undiagnosed, infections can spread to others and develop into more serious diseases.

Everlywell has STD tests designed to discreetly meet your needs from the comfort of your home. We offer general tests for the most common STDs as well as disease-specific tests. We can also connect you with our network of trusted physicians, if treatment is needed.

Take charge of your sexual health by participating in responsive and preventative care. With Everlywell, your sexual health and wellness are in your hands.

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STI vs STD. Tulane University School of Public Health. URL. Accessed March 28, 2022.

Current Trends in the Management and Prevention of Human Papillomavirus Infection. PubMed. URL. Accessed March 28, 2022.

Sexually Transmitted Infections Treatment Guidelines, 2021. CDC. URL. Accessed March 28, 2022.

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