Inform your partners

You are now leaving So They Can Know


You are now leaving So They Can Know


Tips & Scripts for Talking to Your Partners

so they can know they need to get tested for an STD

In general

  • Learn about your STD ahead of time so you can answer your partner's questions.
  • Try role-playing with a trusted friend or in front of a mirror. Practice saying the words out loud.
  • Choose a neutral setting during a time when you won't be distracted or interrupted. Wear clothes you're comfortable in. Be natural.
  • Speak with confidence. You are not lecturing or confessing. You're sharing personal information.
  • Remain calm. If you're upset, a partner might think it's worse than it is. Remember your delivery and body language becomes your message, too.
  • Tell your partner about your STD and what it means- and doesn't mean. There are a lot of myths out there about STDs.
  • Expect your partner to be accepting and supportive. People usually act as you expect them to.
  • Always consider your own safety before notifying your partners. If you're afraid that your partner might hurt you, notifying them on the phone, 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.

Telling a current partner about an STD

Being diagnosed with an STD while in a relationship can provoke many emotions. You may even begin to question your trust in your partner or be worried that they will question their trust in you. Before you blame your partner for cheating, though, keep in mind that some STDs don't always cause symptoms right away. It is possible that you or your partner got the STD in a previous relationship without even knowing it.

These feelings can be hard to confront. But the most important thing to remember is that you and your partner both need to receive medical care as soon as possible.

Talk to your partner as soon as possible. Be honest and straightforward — even if you haven't been in the past. Remember that your partner may be upset and possibly angry, so try to be sensitive.

The most helpful thing you can do is listen to your partner's concerns and fears and offer information about the STD and its symptoms. Give your partner time to absorb this information. Help your partner understand that they may have the STD, and that they could have had it first, or you may have had it first. Sometimes, no one knows for sure.

If you and your partner have already had sex, stop having sex until you can both get tested. Talk to a doctor. If you have a curable STD, you will probably need to take medicine as part of your treatment. Take all of your medication exactly as your doctor prescribes and schedule a follow-up exam to make sure the STD is completely gone. If your doctors gives you medication for your partners, give that to them too.

You also might need to take medication if you have an STD, like herpes, that can't be cured. A doctor or a health clinic can give advice on how to avoid passing the infection to your sexual partner.

If you're diagnosed with an STD and you think you've had it for a while, you need to let past sexual partners know. They should get tested, too.

It may be emotionally uncomfortable, but telling partners about STDs is the right thing to do. If you think you have an STD or you have questions about STDs, talk to a doctor, sexual health clinic, or student health center.

Telling a new partner about an STD

If you have an STD, it's normal to be nervous about telling someone new. If you have an STD that hasn't been cured, like HIV or HPV, you need to tell your future partners. Everyone raises the subject differently. Here are some ideas for handling the conversation:

Try imagining that your roles are reversed. What would you expect your partner to do and say if he or she were in your shoes?

Be proud of your intentions. Your willingness to have this difficult conversation shows that you care about the other person and your relationship. We're all more likely to trust and respect people who are honest (and brave!) enough to talk about tough topics like STDs.

It's best to be direct. You could start by saying, "Before we have sex, I want us to talk about STDs and protection. Because I have an STD." Mention the type of STD you have and how you got it. You don't have to share every detail of your past relationships, but showing that you're open to talking and answering questions can help your partner feel more comfortable too.

It's best to be honest. You may worry about rumors spreading — but isn't it better for your partner to find out because you said something rather than wake up one day with an infection? People are more likely to respect someone's privacy if they feel that person has also respected them.

Allow the conversation to proceed naturally. Listen rather than doing all the talking. Prepare for your partner to be surprised. Each person reacts differently to the news. Some might panic. Some might be full of questions. Others might just need to time to think.

Don't push your partner to make decisions about sex or your relationship right away. It's normal to want acceptance and reassurance after revealing such personal information. But give the other person some space. Making a suggestion like "I know you probably want some time to think about this" shows that you're confident and in control.

Encourage your partner to ask questions. During the conversation, offer information and facts about the STD and its symptoms, such as whether it can be treated or cured. You may want to bring an article or booklet about your STD to give to your partner. If you can't answer all of your partner's questions, that's OK. Say you don't know and then go online together to learn more.

If you and your partner decide not to have sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal, or oral sex), there are other ways you can be intimate or express your feelings for one another. If you do decide to have intercourse, use condoms and practice safe sex techniques.

Content adapted from TeenHealth, the San Francisco City Clinic, and the Los Angeles County Health Department.

Have a tip or resource you think should be added to this? Think any of this advice is wrong? Contact us.