Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections transmitted through sexual contact, caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites. They are common, can affect anyone and they’re easily treatable or manageable, so if you find out you’ve got one, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Unfortunately, there’s still stigma, shame, and misinformation around STIs, which can leave you feeling embarrassed and distressed about a positive result. However, this shouldn’t stop you from letting your sexual partners know that they need to get tested too.
Here's your guide to telling a sexual partner you have an STI.
Why do I need to tell sexual partners about an STI?
Telling former and current sexual partners that you’ve received a positive STI result is really important because these infections can have serious consequences for long-term health if they’re not treated. Your sexual partners have the right to know if you have an STI so they can get tested and treated if necessary. Getting treated reduces the spread of STIs throughout the community.
If you don’t tell your current sexual partners that you have an STI, and they are infected, you can get re-infected.
Who do I need to tell about my STI?
The people you need to inform depend on the type of STI you have and when you were previously tested. You can chat with your doctor about this.
It’s possible to have an STI for a long time without knowing because a lot of STIs don’t have noticeable symptoms and some can’t be detected in screening for weeks or months after contracting them.
STIs aren’t only passed on during sexual intercourse. They can also be transmitted orally, through bodily fluids or skin-to-skin contact. Even if you used a condom you should still tell your sexual partners if you have an STI because condoms aren’t 100% effective at preventing transmission.
If you’re planning on engaging in any type of sexual activity with someone, you need to tell them beforehand.
How do I tell someone I’ve got an STI?
There are many ways to tell a sexual partner you have an STI including in person, during a phone call or via text. They can also be informed anonymously through services like:
- thedramadownunder.info (for men who have sex with men)
- bettertoknow.org.au (for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people)
If you’re having a conversation, choose a time and place that’s private, comfortable and safe for both of you; for example, they might not appreciate a call while they’re at the office or having a chat in a crowded cafe.
Come prepared with information about the STI, testing requirements and treatment options they can talk to a doctor about. Your doctor can also provide information and advice about telling sexual partners.
For more information about STIs and informing your sexual partners, you can contact:
- Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624
- Healthdirect hotline on 1800 022 222