Telling Your Partner You Have an STD

Telling Your Partner You Have an STD

Telling a current, former or potential partner you have an STD can bring on the angst. But revealing it sooner than later can make all the difference.

Finding out you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) can be scary and confusing. Feeling embarrassed or upset about it is normal because it often comes with the stigma that you are “dirty” or promiscuous. You may also fear rejection from current, former or potential partners.

But you’ll need to talk about the infection with your sexual partner(s) and your doctor. In fact, it is a crime in some states to have sex without informing your partner about an STD.

About one out of five adults has an STD. Genital warts are the most common type. Some untreated STDs can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious damage. But many can be managed safely or cured.

Before telling your partner

Some people allow their fear about an STD to turn into anger, shock and a need to blame. These feelings are understandable. But the most helpful thing you can do for yourself is to gather as much disease information as possible. It’s important to:

  • Get treatment.
    • Don’t let cost get in the way. Many public health clinics provide low-cost or no-cost testing and treatment. Many will treat you and maintain your anonymity.
  • Come to terms with having an STD. Don’t put yourself down for having one.

Telling someone you’ve had sex with

Honest communication is the best way to go. Start the conversation sooner than later. It can help your partner to seek treatment earlier and may strengthen your relationship.


  • How you found out you had it
  • How it’s transmitted
  • What symptoms are like

It is important to stay in control of your body language, avoid becoming defensive and listen to your partner’s feelings. You may have had some of the same initial reactions when you were diagnosed.

Be prepared for your partner to be angry, sad or hurt. Make sure to give him or her time to think about things. If your partner wants to discuss it, you can help him or her research the STD. Encourage him or her to see a doctor. You might even go along when your partner gets tested.

Telling a new partner

Don’t be too embarrassed or scared to bring up the subject. You often can’t tell by looking at someone that he or she has an STD. Nor can you assume that your partner is STD-free.

If you have an STD, you must talk about it before having sexual relations with a new partner. Your partner may react with shock or confusion. Don’t expect anyone to be accepting at first. But don’t assume a partner will automatically reject you either.

Telling someone about your STD at the beginning of a relationship:

  • Shows that you respect your partner’s well-being
  • Builds honesty and trust
  • Encourages your partner to share sexual information with you

This discussion also provides a platform for moving a relationship into a sexual phase. Now you can both try to learn ways to have safe sex so the STD is not transmitted. Be sure to talk about activities you’re comfortable with, risks and how to fulfill each other’s needs.

All STDs are different. How to protect your partner may depend on the type of infection. It’s possible that one precaution you’ll need is to use condoms correctly and consistently during sex. But you may also have to abstain from sex while you are having an outbreak of an STD like herpes. There is also a vaccine for women to help protect them from genital warts. Your doctor can tell you about this and other ways to help protect yourself and your partner from an STD.

Over time, most people are able to put their STD in perspective with the right information and support. Getting regular check-ups and practicing healthy sexual behavior will help protect you and your partner.

Scroll to Top