How to tell someone you have an STI

Telling your partner or partners that you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) can be a difficult conversation. But it’s important that you let them know, for their health and for yours.

If they also have the STI but don’t know about it, they can pass it on to other people. Or you can pass it back and forth between you, so you might get the infection again. If they don’t have treatment when they need it, the STI could develop and cause more serious health problems.

Here’s how you can prepare for the conversation.

Don’t go it alone

When you get your results, you should be offered help and advice. The sexual health clinic or online service that gave you the test results can help you tell your partners about the diagnosis.

They can give you advice for having a conversation about your results. Or they can help you tell your partners anonymously through a process called partner notification.

This means they’ll send an anonymous text message to your recent sexual partners. It will explain that someone they’ve had sexual contact with has recently tested positive for an infection. And it will give them information on getting tested. It will not include your name.

Do some research

Before you talk with anyone about the STI, find out what you can about the infection, its symptoms and how it’s treated. This can help you feel more in control of your health and the conversation.

Your partner will probably have questions and concerns, so having some facts can help you support them. If they ask you something you don’t know the answer to, suggest that you find out together.

Offer to help them get tested too. You can share where you got your test or let them know how to find their nearest clinic. You might offer to help them take samples for an at-home test kit or to go with them to their appointment.

Read our information about common STIs

Choose when and how to have the conversation

Find a time and place where you and your partner can talk privately, without being interrupted or distracted. It will help if you both feel comfortable and relaxed.

It can help to be somewhere where you can easily leave if the conversation gets too heated. At their home, or in the bedroom together, might not be the best locations.

You don’t have to tell them face-to-face. Sometimes it’s easier or safer to send a text message or make a phone call. You could send a text that says

“I recently did an STI screen and I have my results. I’ve been diagnosed with (INSERT STI). My clinic has advised that my previous partners should get tested for this. It doesn’t always cause symptoms so even if you don’t have any you should still get tested”

Avoid drinking alcohol before you talk with them. Alcohol might make you feel more confident but it makes it harder to stay calm during a difficult conversation.

Remember honesty is the best policy: tell them about your results, and let them know what this might mean for them:

  • do they need to be tested and treated too?

  • do you need to stop having sex until you’re both treated?

  • do you need to start using condoms?

No blame or shame

Sadly there’s still a lot of stigma and myths about STIs. Your partner might get upset and angry. They could accuse you of cheating on them.

Listen to their concerns and be honest with them.

Having an STI does not mean someone is dirty or has been unfaithful. You should not be made to feel ashamed or guilty. By telling them about your diagnosis, you have done the right thing. You’ve been honest and shown you care about their health. They should respond respectfully. Remember you can leave the conversation if you feel unsafe.

If you’re being treated for an STI, never share your treatment with a partner. Not all medications are suitable for all people. They need to be checked by a medical professional so they can be given the right prescription for them.

Last updated at: 22 February 2024
Published on: 05 April 2023