If you’ve tested positive for an STI (formely reffered to as an STD), it doesn’t make you a bad person, and you certainly aren’t alone (the CDC estimates 1 in 4 people will get an STI before the age of 25). If you’re thinking of starting things up with a new boo though, you may be worried about killing the mood with the news. To protect your sex partner(s) and avoid any future embarrassment or misunderstanding, it’s a conversation you need to have.
Genital human papllomarivus (HPV), Hepatitis B and C, herpes simplex virus 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are chronic sexually transmitted infections. In these cases, even if you are no longer experiencing symptoms, or never did, the infection may still be transmitted to your current or future partners. Using a barrier method of protection while having sex with your new partner(s) however, doesn’t replace having an honest discussion about your STI status.
Make sure you have been tested and spoken with a doctor about treatment if necessary. Being informed about any STI you have will help make the conversation with your new sex and/or relationship partner(s) easier and help reassure them you are taking responsibility for your health. Depending on what STI you have, there may be medications you can take the decrease the likelihood you pass the infection on to any new partners, beyond the point where you are personally experiencing and treating any acute symptoms.
Try imagining the role reversed-what would you expect your partner to do? Your willingness to have the conversation and preparedness beforehand shows that you care about the other person and their health. You may worry about rumors spreading, especially if an emotional investment isn’t part of the deal with this new boo. Your choice to be honest and up front may make them more likely to respect your privacy than if they wake up one day and have an infection they aren’t prepared for.
If you’re already in a relationship and test positive for an STI, it doesn’t necessarily mean your monogamous partner was unfaithful. It’s possible you contracted the infection prior to your current relationship or hook up buddy. Giving your past or current partner the heads up gives that person the opportunity to get checked out and, if necessary, treated. Some STIs can affect fertility later in life or lead to worse infections if they’re not recognized or treated early on.
It is a courageous thing to tell someone about your sexual past, but having an STI is not the end of the world nor does it have to mean the end of your sex life. If you and your partner decide not to have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral), there are other ways you can be intimate. If you do decide to have sex, use a barrier method of protection (male or female condoms or diaphragms) and practice safe sex.
Visit the website for “Get Yourself Tested” (GYT) for more tips for talking to your partner. Check out UNC’s Campus Health Services for more information on STIs and STDs and to learn how you can get tested on UNC’s campus, with your new boo or on your own.