How to tell someone you’ve got an STI

Finding out you’ve got an STI like chlamydia or gonorrhoea isn’t the best of news, but it’s also not the end of the world. Often, what can seem more daunting is broaching the topic with your sexual partners, especially if your usual communication with them consists of suggestive emojis and nudes!

Here are some tips for telling someone about an STI diagnosis as gracefully as possible.

Be direct and honest

Believe it or not, many guys would prefer you told them directly and appreciate the honesty. It’s true! Consider this – a guy you’ve recently slept with finds out he has gonorrhoea. Wouldn’t you rather he tell you than not?

You could use something like:

“Hey, just letting you know I’ve tested positive for oral gonorrhoea” or “I’ve got my results back and have gonorrhoea in my throat”.

Avoid blame

Pointing fingers never ends well. When you are composing your message, be mindful of using language that could indicate one person is responsible and at fault for passing on an STI. We’ve got to remember that sex between consenting adults should mean that everyone involved is “entering” at their own risk. And besides, unless they have only had sex with one other person ever, they can’t be 100% sure of where and how the STI came from.

Choose respect over regret

Everyone is going to respond differently to news of a potential STI infection. Some of us who have been around the block a couple times might have already experienced an STI or two previously, so news of an STI infection might not be as alarming. For others though, an STI might actually be quite a big deal – especially if it’s their first. Being considerate of this and how you communicate it can go a long way.

And even if in fact an STI has been passed on between you and the other person, don’t forget you (hopefully) at least had a good time, right?

Use flair with care

We can sometimes get carried away when writing a message and our emotions can influence what we say. Consider keeping the language neutral so that it’s not misinterpreted. Using emojis, gifs or sarcasm can also work if used right and if, for example, it feels appropriate based on your relationship with the person.

Taking in all the above into consideration, here’s an example of what you could say:

“There’s no easy way to say this but I’ve just tested positive for rectal chlamydia. Not sure how or when I got it, but thought you should know so you can get tested if you haven’t yet. Sorry, I know it’s not the sexiest message!”

If you were on the receiving end of this message, then you’d know at least that this person cares enough about you and your health that they decided to tell you. It’s kind of brave when you think about it. If you can, thank them for letting you know and book yourself a test.

Use an online tool

Still not sure what to put down? Our friends at the Burnett Foundation Aotearoa have put together a text generator tool you could use and copy and paste into your messaging app of choice.

A screenshot of the Ending HIV New Zealand's STI contact tracing tool "Tell Me":

Want to be more discreet?

If you have their number or email, there are online tools such as Let Them Know that enables you to anonymously inform your recent sexual partner(s) that they may have contracted an STI. It’s free to use and your identity is kept confidential.

What to do if emotions get high

Try to stay calm and answer any questions they have. Most guys will be totally cool when it comes to finding out they may have been exposed to an STI while hooking up, but if you do find your partner has a negative reaction, try not to take it personally. It’s important to remember that you are doing the responsible thing and sometimes people need time to process information.

Ultimately, how a person deals with the news is up to them, but hopefully, you may find that guys will more often than not react positively than negatively.

Let them know where they can get tested (optional)

If you want and it feels appropriate, you can also let them know where to get tested, as not everyone might have a place where they get tested regularly. You can recommend finding a place using our where to get tested tool or give them the NSW Sexual Health Infolink number (1800 451 624), to speak with a sexual health nurse to find out more about testing near them.