Do You Have to Tell a Partner If You Have an STI?


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Relationships always include some awkward conversations—and disclosing your STI status goes beyond discomfort. But if don't tell a partner about having an STI, it could have serious consequences. Especially if it doesn’t happen before you have sex. You might wonder if there's ever a good reason not to tell a partner about STIs.

Should You Always Disclose Your STI Status With Your Partner?

The short answer: Yes, because it is generally the most compassionate thing to do. We could end the article right here. In the event that you need more convincing, here are all the reasons why it’s so important to tell a partner about STIs.

1. Disclosing an STI is the ethical thing to do

Your sexual partner deserves a chance to make informed decisions, such as using condoms, taking things slower, or choosing to engage in safer types of physical intimacy.

2. Disclosing an STI prevents further spread in the community

When you don’t know your status, you’re more likely to spread infections to others. You could pass an STI to your partner, who may then pass it to someone else, who may pass it to someone else. This is especially dangerous because some STIs require prompt treatment. Certain STIs have the risk of lasting complications, like infertility or even cancer.

Another issue: You might think it’s no big deal for your partner to get the same STI as you, but it’s possible that something that was “fine” for you might not be fine for someone else. For example, they might have trouble affording their treatment, which is a burden they should not take on unknowingly.

It’s especially unacceptable because STI transmission is pretty easily preventable by using condoms and dental dams or by avoiding activity during an outbreak (for viruses like Herpes).

3. Not disclosing is illegal by state statutes across the U.S.

Laws vary from state to state. However, knowingly and recklessly passing on an STI to an unwitting partner can be considered sexual assault in some civil suits, resulting in personal injury fines. Plus, it is a criminal offense in states like California to purposely withhold a positive HIV status with your partner before starting a physical relationship.

Rethinking the Conversation

Disclosing an STI to a potential partner can be intimidating, but think of it this way: If you don’t trust someone to treat you with respect when you’re being vulnerable with them in this type of conversation, they likely are not a healthy sexual partner for you.

You are also way more likely to enjoy your sexual escapades when you don’t have to worry about whether you’re putting your partner in harm’s way, and of course vice versa. There’s no better aphrodisiac than putting both of your minds at ease.

But What if I’m Too Late?

In some unfortunate cases, you may find out that you’ve contracted an infection after a sexual encounter. Still, it’s important to reach out to past partners who are likely to have been at risk. They may not know that they had it originally, and contact tracing is super important to help stop the spread.

Without playing the blame game, being honest with your sexual partners about your STI status shows that you care about their health and wellbeing in the long run. You can even have your state health department’s partner services help you in contacting previous lovers. With their help, you can make sure everyone gets the testing, counseling, and health care they need and deserve.