- Think about how you would like to be told, if you were the one being called.
- Practice first.
- Write a script down for yourself if you think you need it.
- Know the basic facts about your STD so you can answer their questions.
- Chances are, they’re going to be really grateful you told them. It’s not great news to get, but everyone realized that it takes a certain level of courage and maturity to be willing to calling your partners.
- Always consider your own safety before notifying your partners. If you're afraid that your partner might hurt you, notifying them anonymously or not at all might be safer than telling them in person. To talk to someone who understands what to do to be safe: 1-800-799-SAFE.
When to call
- Call within the first few days after you’re diagnosed. For your current partners, tell them before you have sex with them again, and make sure you either use condoms or don't have sex until you are both cured (if you have an STD that can be cured). It’s okay to take a day to process and calm down before notifying your past partners, but the more you put it off the less likely you are to do it, and the more likely your partners are to spread the STD to someone else.
- Don’t call when you’re angry or upset.
- Call during a time when your partner is likely to be alone.
- Call during a time and from a place where you won’t be interrupted or overheard.
What to say
- First, get a sense of where they are and what they’re doing at the moment. Something like:
- “Whatcha up to right now?”
- If this isn’t a good time for them or it seems like they’re in a noisy place, say something like
- “Well, it seems like you’re kind of busy right now, can I call later?”
- “I wanted to talk to you about something kind of private. Is there a time later when we can chat?”
- If this is a good time, a little conversation is okay if that helps make you comfortable, but don’t wait too long to tell them why you’re calling – you might lose your nerve or they might get called away.
- If they ask you how you’re doing, that might be a good time to just launch in with something like:
- “I’m doing okay. Actually, that’s why I’m calling…”
- If they don’t ask you how you’re doing, or you’re just farther along in the conversation, set them up to pay attention to what you’re about to say with a statement like:
- “So, you might be wondering why I’m calling…”
- “So, I’ve got something to tell you…”
- “So, I need to tell you something…”
- “So, not great news…”
- For breaking the news, it might be good to emphasize that you just learned about your diagnosis, rather than have your partner think you knew you had an STD when you slept together or you waited a long time before telling them. Here are a couple ways to put say it:
- “I went to the doctor the other day, and learned I had [STD].”
- “I just got tested and found out that I have [STD].”
- If you don’t think your partner will recognize the name of you’re STD, you might want to add:
- “It’s an STD.”
- Apologize. Even if you don’t feel like it’s your fault. Maybe if you have only had sex with one person ever you don’t need to, but otherwise an apology makes everyone feel better. Something like:
- “I don’t know if I gave it to you or you gave it to me, and if it was me I’m sorry…”
- If you don’t think your partner will know how your STD is spread, you might want to add:
- “But since we have [type of sex you had], I thought you should know, because it can be spread that way.”
- Make sure they know that they need to get tested and treated:
- “I just wanted to let you know so you could get checked out.”
- If your STD is curable (like chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, or syphilis), make sure to let them know that too. Sometimes people don’t get tested because they don’t realize that getting treated will help their health.
- “So…it really sucks, but the good news is it goes away once you get treated, and you can’t infect anyone after that.”
- Give them time to process a bit and ask questions. If you feel comfortable, ask them if they have any questions.
- If they ask a question you don’t answer to, say you don’t know. Don’t make something up to make them or you feel better.
How to end the conversation
- Chances are they’re not going to want to chit-chat afterwards. If they do, and you feel comfortable with that, great, but otherwise don’t sweat it—mission accomplished.
- Ways to exit gracefully:
- “So, I should probably go, but if you want to talk more later feel free to call.”
- “So, glad to hear you’re doing well otherwise.”
Have a tip or resource you think should be added to this? Think any of this advice is wrong? Contact us.