Part of our job at Planned Parenthood is telling patients that they have sexually transmitted infections. For them, telling past and future partners can be a difficult situation at best. Most people’s first thought upon hearing that they have an STI is something like: “Who gave this to me?” “Did my partner cheat?” “How did this happen?” “How could I have been so stupid?” Here are some things that might be helpful if you or someone you know is on the receiving end of this news:
• In Florida, HIV, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea and hepatitis B are all reportable. This means you are required by law to tell your current partner or partners so they can be tested, too. If you do not feel able to tell a partner, someone from the Health Department can do it for you. Another option is to send an anonymous online postcard.
• Be very cautious about who you tell. Even friends may react in ways you don’t expect. Some people may treat you differently, be judgmental or blame you for putting yourself at risk.
• People love to talk. You may feel someone you tell is trustworthy and will keep this information to themselves – but they may not.
• Do not assume anything about who gave what to whom. HPV and HSV can live on the skin with no visible symptoms and still be contagious. Tests for these viruses are not usually included in basic STI testing. Some STIs live in your body for years with no symptoms. Your partner could have had the infection before you were together.
• There is never a great time to tell a current partner, but they need to be checked, as well. For some people, telling a partner in a public place may be safer. If you have any doubt about your own safety, make sure someone is nearby if you need help.
• Telling a potential partner typically goes two ways. Either they will recognize how difficult this is for you and admire you for your candor or you may never hear from them again. How they react to this information says a great deal about what kind of person they are.
• Most people with viral STIs say telling a potential partner early on in a relationship is best. Waiting too long and getting attached to one another may only make matters worse.
• The most important way you can help yourself is to become as educated as possible. All STIs can be prevented to some extent. Learn how to make sex safer and have accurate information to dispel myths.
Hearing the news that you have a sexually transmitted infection or telling a partner is never easy, but it is so important for you and your partner’s health to deal with the situation. Remember … you can rely on Planned Parenthood. For more information on sexually transmitted infections or to schedule an appointment for testing, visit our Planned Parenthood website.