Managing an STI in your relationship

Finding out you have an STI can feel like a smack in the face. Never fear – most STIs can be treated fairly easily, and those that can’t be cured, can be managed. While it may be inconvenient or embarrassing, it’s important to let your sexual partners know about it. If you're struggling, talk to your doc about what you can do. Because with sex comes great responsibility. Dang.

Read this if:

  • You’ve got an STI in your relationship and need a hand with letting your partner know
  • Your partner’s got an STI and you want tips to manage it
  • You need tips on how to let past partners know about an STI


Being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection is always unwelcome and often unexpected. Once you get over the immediate shock, it’s really important to deal with it as soon as possible. This doesn’t only mean taking care of yourself, but also making sure that your partners, both past and current, are taken care of as well. The thought of having ‘that talk’ might be somewhat terrifying, but there are some important reasons to get it done, asap.

  • Some STIs don’t show symptoms, meaning a long time could pass before a partner realises they have one. 
  • Some STIs can have serious negative impacts on a person’s health if they’re left untreated for a long period of time. 
  • Some STIs, if left untreated, can affect a person’s ability to have kids later in life. This applies to both guys and girls.
  • Your partner needs to be aware so that they can make the right decisions down the track. For example, they will need to go and get tested. If it turns out they do have an STI, they will need to inform past/future partners of what happened, and may choose to use a different form of contraception.
  • They have a right to know about what’s going on with their health. In fact, in some states in Australia it’s considered a crime if you know that you have HIV and you have unprotected sex with someone. Get the facts for your state.
Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can follow to stop things from reaching this point. 

The life of an STI

  1. Get freaky. This includes oral sex, vaginal sex and anal sex - STIs don’t discriminate!

  2. Schedule awkward meeting with doctor. A lot of people find it really uncomfortable setting up sexual health checks, but they are totally confidential and 100% necessary. If you’re having sex with different people, you should be getting regular sexual health checks. If you’ve never had a check-up before, get onto it.

  3. So, you’ve got an STI. Don’t panic, it’s okay. Just make sure you take the following steps to take care of it and stop it from happening again.

  4. Break the news. Plan a time to have the conversation with your current partner. You’ll probably want it to be in a private, quiet place at a time when both of you are in a good mood. 

  5. Reassure them. If they get worried and freak out, let them know that you’ve seen a doctor and got all the information you need to make sure that both of you take the necessary steps manage this.

  6. Make sure you’ve got all the facts. Let them know exactly which STI it is, what the treatment or management plan is, what the common symptoms are, and anything else you think they might like to know.

  7. Discuss ways to stay safe, both now and in the future. Your partner needs to make an appointment to have a sexual health check. Talk about barrier methods of contraception, which usually offer good protection against STIs.

  8. Let your past sexual partners know. The thought of having this conversation is pretty unbearable but there are anonymous services that you can use to make it easier. Let them know is a service that takes all the hard work out of it for you.

  9. Congratulations! You win 10 points and the STI gets none.

The emotional stuff

When you tell your partner about something like this, there is often a landslide of questions about your sexual history that follows: 

How did you get the STI? 

Who else did you have sex with? 

Was it before we got together? 

Before you get sucked into that conversation, have a think about how much detail you’re comfortable sharing about past relationships and what you’d rather keep to yourself. Try to be as honest and reassuring as you can so that they know exactly where they stand. Check out some of the other things to keep in mind when you’re communicating sexual history.

Still got an issue?

It can be really tricky to deal with an STI in your relationship. If you’ve tried these tips and you’re still struggling to deal with it, make an appointment with your doc to talk it through. Alternatively, make an appointment at your nearest sexual health clinic, and don’t be shy because they talk about these kinds of things all the time and have heard everything before.

What can I do now?


Last reviewed: 09 May, 2016
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