What to Do If You Think Your SO May Have Given You an STI

On a list of all the awkward relationship conversations possible, talking to your partner after contracting a sexually transmitted infection might hold the number one spot. Whether it’s at the beginning of a new relationship, or you have been in a committed, exclusive relationship for a while, it’s far from an ideal situation. Not only is it a matter of health, it also opens the door to a lot of issues that you and your partner may not feel like addressing. But, no worries-we’re going to walk you through this stressful situation to help you overcome it in the easiest way possible.

How can I make this any less uncomfortable?

You can ameliorate the awkwardness if such a situation arises by addressing the subject before it actually becomes a problem. Discussing STIs and sexual history is important before entering a sexually active relationship.

“The discussion about STIs should be had with your partner prior to even beginning sexual relations,” advises Dr. Angela Jones, an OBGYN. “There needs to be a discussion about sexual history that includes sexual practices, preferences and any history of STIs.”

It may be uncomfortable to bring up, but it will help your relationship be more open and mature and make things way easier if you ever end up with an STI.

“If you’re not comfortable having this conversation, perhaps you shouldn't be having sex,” says Dr. Jones.  

Okay, but what if it becomes reality? 

But let’s say that it happens. You think something is going on down there and you’re freaking out. American Girl’s Care and Keeping of You only gave you so much advice. What do you do?

First things first: if you have any suspicion that you might have an STI, see a doctor. And let’s not buy into the stigmas surrounding STI’s either, okay?

“Getting an STD is just a part of life for many of people regardless of if they've engaged in one sexual experience or many,” says Dr. Maria Trent, a Professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Medicine, Public Health & Nursing.

And even if you aren’t showing symptoms, getting regularly tested isn’t a bad idea.

“I’ve encountered plenty of college women who assume all STDs show symptoms or that only 'promiscuous' women need to get tested,” explains Dr. Trent. “Women may also perceive that their partner is ‘safe’ because the partner doesn't have symptoms resulting in a decision not to use condoms. None of that is true! Many STDs won’t show symptoms.”

“If you think you’ve got an STI, see your physician and get some closure on that worry,” says April Masini, a relationship advice expert. “Consider waiting to have your doctor’s diagnosis before discussing this issue with your partner.”

While it’s important to discuss with your partner if you have an STI, it might be a good idea to make sure you’re certain before discussing.  

“If it turns out you don’t have an STI, you may get both you and your partner worked into a tizzy without cause,” advises Masini.

However, if you have any suspicions about your sexual health, don’t have sexual interactions until you know you’re completely healthy.

Related: 6 Things Everyone is Insecure About When it Comes to Sex

Where can I go if I'm too embarrassed to see a doctor? 

If you feel too uncomfortable to go see a doctor, there are also telemedicine services available.

“Most women can discreetly speak to a board-certified physician from home via HIPAA compliant video medicine apps on their cell phones or computers,” explains Dr. Cindy Duke of the Nevada Fertility Center. “There is no charge to download the app and cost for the visit is often on par or even less expensive than going to a brick and mortar clinic. Plus, many providers accept insurances.”

Dr. Duke is a member of ROWE (Reliable Online Wellness Experience) and says that telemedicine physicians are able to order testing for common STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and hepatitis. Additionally, the telemedicine provider can review safe sex practices and answer any questions you may have but felt afraid to ask her friends or another doctor.

Another great resource is through the American Sexual Health Association’s Yes Means Test campaign. “It features quick-and-easy STD facts, but without a shaming tone, explains Dr. Trent. “Most importantly, individuals can perform a search on the site to find a clinic to access free and confidential testing.”

How do I break the news?

Once you have confirmed that you have an STI and your health care provider has given you treatment instructions, it’s time to have “the talk”.

“You need to discuss this openly and honestly with your partner,” says Heidi McBain, a professional women’s health counselor. “Find a quiet space where you can share what your medical doctor told you. Then give your partner time to process the information and time to speak about what you just disclosed.”

If you’ve been diagnosed and are sexually active with your partner, it’s likely they also need to be tested. Then, you can discuss the potential source of the STI.

“This diagnosis is a good way to broach the subject of how things need to change to avoid putting yourselves in harm’s way when it comes to safe sex,” explains Marsini.

How can our relationship move past this? 

Obviously, this situation isn’t ideal, but it doesn’t need to be the end of the relationship.

“Avoid pointing fingers, blaming each other or creating drama,” Marsini continues. “This isn’t a great topic of conversation, but if you’re having sex, you need to be able to discuss these uncomfortable topics.”

Dr. Trent also encourages college women to put the situation in perspective: STD’s are actually very common among college students, and one in two people will get one before the age of 25.

“Nobody who tests positive is really alone,” she says. “Additionally, sharing the news is a proactive and healthy way to take care of her personal health and the health of her partner. It’s better to be up-front and honest.”

Related: 5 Signs it's Time to Define the Relationship

Maybe this discussion leads to the ominous “define the relationship” moment, or maybe it’s the turning point of a long-term relationship, for better or worse. It’s also a chance to discuss exclusivity and where both you and your partner stand.

“This is a time to talk about monogamy or if you agree that you’re not going to be monogamous, protection,” says Marsini. “If you’re not on the same page, this diagnosis is an opportunity to gain some clarity about how you feel, your partner feels and your reactions to each other’s feelings on monogamy.”

At best, you can turn a bad situation into an opportunity for relationship growth. However, ideally, you could reach a point in your relationship where you don’t need a health scare to force you to discuss sexual health and history. To avoid this, discuss barrier methods and use protection to prevent the spread and contraction of STIs.

“A conversation early on, and practicing safe sex by including barrier methods can save a lot of future heartache,” says Dr. Jones.

In the end, it's a matter of both you and your partner's health. So even if it's cringe-worthy for you to even think about, be open with your partner about sexual health, get tested regularly, and if you are one of the 50% who have to deal with an STI, you're definitely not alone.