Here's exactly how to tell a new partner about an STI

By Lea Rose Emery

When you get into a new relationship, there are a lot of twists and turns to navigate — how much do you tell them about your ex-partners? Or your family — or what you’re looking for in a relationship? And, for a lot of people, you may have to figure out how to tell a new partner about an STI

Remember, you’re not alone. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that nearly 20 million new STIs are contracted in the US every year — and one in two sexually active people will develop an STI by the age of 25. So when I say that so many people have been there, they really have.

As much as we’re starting to clear the taboo around STIs, there is still a huge lack of education and a lot of confusion that can lead to misinformation and feelings of shame — but most of the time, having an STI is just not that big of a deal. When you’re approaching a new partner, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. As long as you’re upfront about your situation, it shouldn’t change very much.

So here’s how to tell a new partner about an STI, because information is definitely power. 

Pick your moment 

Firstly, choose your moment for this conversation — as in, you might want not to drop it when you’re both naked and about to bone. Now, if you feel totally comfortable with this person and you think that that’s your perfect moment, I’m not going to tell you how to live your life. You should do these things on your terms. But generally speaking, it's probably best to mention it when you have the time to have an actual conversation about it. 

Don’t be ashamed

It may be that you’re totally cool with your STI and understand that it’s just like any other infection — great! But if you’re nervous or self-conscious, remember that you don’t need to be ashamed. As I mentioned, STIs are really, really common — more common than most people think. Remembering that can help, so bear that in mind.

If you can, try to keep the conversation frank and factual. It’s just something you need to make them aware of, rather than something you’re apologizing for. 

Be prepared to answer any questions

One important thing to remember is that it’s totally normal if your partner has some questions — so don’t be surprised if they take a moment to gather their thoughts and then ask you more about it. Some of these might be questions that are personal — how did you get it, how long have you known, maybe even why you haven’t mentioned it before — while some might be more practical, like where do you go from here. Now, if you find any of the questions too personal or inappropriate, you obviously don’t have to answer them — but expect that some questions will come with the territory. 

Have any relevant information to hand

It’s important to not just allow them to ask the questions — having helpful answers can make all the difference. For example, knowing how contagious the STI is, how it can be treated, what it means for your sex life — these are all pieces of information that can go a long way toward combatting any fears that might come up.

Remember, a lot of people are woefully undereducated when it comes to STIs. They might not know the difference between chlamydia and gonorrhoea — or even how HIV is different than AIDs. They might not realize that a lot of infections are totally treatable or even curable. They also might not realize just how damn common herpes is (we all basically have it). Of course, you can always tell them to go away and educate themselves on the topic, but if you feel comfortable giving them a little lesson then it might be useful. 

Make sure to take care of yourself!

Finally, remember that you haven’t done anything wrong — you’re not dirty and you don’t need to apologize. So if this person makes you feel that way, then you don’t have to listen to what they’re saying. If you're treating them with respect, you have every right to expect that back from them and not settle for less. 

There might be occasional situations that warrant them being upset. If you have, say, been encouraging unprotected sex only to later reveal that you have an STI, that’s obviously not OK — and they have a right to be angry. But if they respond to the mere fact that you have an STI with anger or slut-shaming, that’s unacceptable. Truthfully, it’s better to know that they’re that kind of asshole now, so you can move past it, instead of finding out later on.

STIs affect a huge percentage of the population — especially among young people. But still, the taboo can lead to people feeling uncomfortable or awkward talking about. Remember to let your partner know on your own terms — how they respond is up to them, but a supportive partner should be supportive of every aspect of your life, your health included. 


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