Silent Sam: How do I tell my partner that I have an STI?

Dear Sexpert,

I just started hooking up with this girl I have been interested in for a while, which is great! The bad news is that I just got some results from an STI test I got just before this all happened and it looks like I might have a minor STI. I need to tell her because we didn’t use protection the last time we got together, but I don’t know how! I like this girl, and I don’t want to screw things up right off the bat with this. What do I do?

–Silent Sam

Dear Silent,

This sounds like a tough situation. I understand sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are scary, and sometimes talking about them is even scarier. That being said, you shouldn’t wait any longer to talk about this with your partner. A big part of minimizing the impact of an STI is getting it diagnosed and treated early. Some common STIs (e.g., chlamydia, gonorrhea) produce only minor discomfort, but if left untreated, can have serious and long-term complications. I know it’s hard to bring up, but don’t hesitate; it is important she knows as soon as possible so she can head to McCosh and get herself checked out. I know you know this, but it is important to remember whenever you start to get nervous about starting the conversation.

In order to make it a little easier for you, here are some steps to get prepared for the conversation:

First, read up! It will make it easier to talk about the infection if you can think about it as what it is, a medical problem. Do some research on your specific STI via reliable sources like Mayo Clinic, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or Planned Parenthood. Also, draw from your own experiences getting tested and use the University Health Services website to learn about the process she will need to go through to get tested and what treatments are available. Knowing the facts will give you confidence and help you prepare for any questions she might have throughout the conversation.

Second, know what you want from the conversation and identify your priorities in the conversation. If your goal is to continue a relationship, be clear about that.  The conversation might be very different coming from someone who just wants to notify a past partner that they are at-risk. Either way, try to approach this conversation gently, and make it clear you have your partner’s best interest at heart. Also respect that she may need time to process the information, separately.

Next, remember some features to include. Avoid placing blame on the person you think you may have gotten the STI from, because that can only hurt the tone of the situation. Also, remember to note that there is no guarantee the infection was passed along to your new partner, but encourage them to get tested regardless.

Finally, plan what you are going to say. Difficult conversations are always easier when they are planned out. You can’t script it word-for-word, but you can jot down the key points that you want to hit to guide you when the conversation gets uncomfortable. This can be especially helpful with remembering resources you want to make her aware of.

In terms of that kind of information, here are some preliminary things to note: Sexual Health and Wellness at UHS will be your main contact for STI testing and treatment, and they can be reached at (609) 258-3141. You can also make an appointment online at They offer Gonorrhea and Chlamydia testing for $9.50 for each site tested (oral, rectal, throat) and other tests as needed, sometimes providing referrals to other clinics. McCosh Health Center’s front desk also offers 10 free condoms  every day! You can also get dental dams from your Peer Health Adviser or the LGBT Center. So next time, remember to make use of these in all of your sexual encounters to prevent the spread of STI’s and protect against pregnancy (only external and internal condoms protect against both).

Also, if your current partner is not the only partner you’ve had unprotected sexual contact with in the previous 3-6 months, it is important that you have this conversation with each partner. They, too, could be at-risk.

Good luck with the conversation. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did it.

~The Sexpert