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.
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 . The pathogens that can cause an STI include:
STIs can be transmitted in a variety of ways, most commonly including:
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 . 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:
It’s not known exactly why some STIs, like HPV, develop into more serious diseases . 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.
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:
We recommend approaching the conversation with your partner(s) in the following way.
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:
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).
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:
Keep all of these questions in mind when you prepare your thoughts before you speak with them.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
After you tell your partner about the diagnosis, there are several steps you (and they) will need to take, including:
Moving forward, you should both stay on top of your symptoms (if any) and screen for STIs regularly.
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.
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.