When should you tell your partner about your STD or STI? A sexologist weighs in

Breaking the STI-gma


By Redzhanna Jazmin

When should you tell your partner about your STD or STI? A sexologist weighs in

Disclosing an STI is a tough conversation—that’s why sexologist Andrea Koh is here with tips to offset the awkwardness.

It’s no secret that sexual health is a taboo topic; even something as normal as periods still holds a lot of stigma. Now, throw the concept of a contractable disease into the mix—if that’s not going to put a spanner in the works for open and honest communication, we don’t know what will.

That said, we’re here to try to help break the stigma. We spoke to sexologist Andrea Koh, who is also a professional counsellor at Rekindle Centre for Systemic Therapy Malaysia, to help simplify the conversation.

“It is essential for everyone to play a part in breaking this stigma and fostering a healthy and informed perspective on sexual health,” says Koh. “We can start by taking time to educate ourselves about different STIs, including their transmission, symptoms, and treatment options. Knowledge is a powerful tool in dispelling myths and reducing stigma. Many misconceptions contribute to stigma, and by correcting and challenging these, you contribute to a more informed and accepting community.”

So, step one is coming from an informed place. Step two? That’s what we’re tackling today. Ahead, Koh answers your burning questions—from how to broach the topic of STIs to how to respond and more:



Why should you tell your partner you have an STI?

Look, it’s not an easy conversation to have, but it is a necessary one. Koh explains that sharing your STI status is important for several reasons. Firstly, it allows your partner to give their informed consent: “Disclosing our STI status allows our partner to make informed decisions about their sexual health,” she begins. “It respects their right to make choices based on complete and accurate information.”

Secondly, it’s important for early detection and treatment. Telling your partner allows them to look out for any telltale signs so that they can detect the disease early on and seek treatment as soon as possible. “If we are aware of our STI status, we can take proactive steps to seek medical attention, get tested regularly, and start treatment if necessary,” Koh elaborates. “Early detection and treatment are essential for managing and controlling many STIs.”

“It would also help us in taking necessary precautions to prevent the transmission of infections such as using protection like condoms or other barrier methods,” she continues. Concerning your relationship, it establishes a mutual trust between you and your partner and fosters healthy communication. “Having an open and honest discussion about sexual health fosters trust in a relationship. It demonstrates a commitment to transparency and a willingness to prioritise the well-being of both partners,” Koh resolves.

Finally, Koh explains that there are legal and ethical implications to consider with this conversation. Fun fact: In some countries, there are legal implications for not disclosing one’s STI status to a sexual partner. “This is especially pertinent if there is a risk of transmission like HIV,” says Koh. “Plus, from an ethical standpoint, it is our responsibility to inform our partners to prevent harm.”


When is the best time to tell your partner about your STI?

In short: ASAP. Koh asserts that the best time to disclose your STI is as soon as possible—and, it should go without saying, but you should also stop all sexual activities with all partners. As far as choosing the right moment goes… that’s up to your discretion. Koh advises that you “choose the right timing and setting to broach the topic”. Overall, finding a private setting where you both feel comfortable and won’t be interrupted is key so that you can really take your time with the conversation.



So… how do you actually tell your partner you have an STI?

As far as awkward conversations go, this one is definitely up there. That said, Koh has some tips to make the conversation a little more seamless.

“Consider starting with a broader conversation about the importance of sexual health,” she advises. “Discuss the significance of regular check-ups, especially in the context of having casual or multiple partners, and explore how to handle the situation if an STI arises.”

“It’s beneficial to raise this topic before becoming intimate, including activities like kissing, as certain STIs can be transmitted through such interactions. Introducing the conversation early in the relationship lays a foundation for easier communication when the need arises,” she urges. “If we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve discovered we have an STI and haven’t previously broached the subject, honesty is key, especially if intimacy is expected. This openness is crucial to prevent the potential spread of the infection to our partner.”

“Given that some STIs can be asymptomatic, it’s important to acknowledge the possibility of transmission from either partner,” she continues. “You should also encourage your partner to get tested as well, emphasising the shared responsibility for sexual health.”


What should I mention when I tell my partner about my STI?

This part is pretty cut and dry. According to Koh, you’ll want to “share the specific details of your STI status, including the type of infection, when you were diagnosed, and any treatments you’ve received. This information helps your partner make informed decisions.”



What’s going to happen when you tell your partner about your STI?

It’s hard to say how your partner will react, but Koh’s best advice is to be prepared for various reactions. “Patience and empathy are key—you have to understand that your partner may have a range of emotions and reactions to the news and may take time to process it,” says Koh. “In addition, be prepared for questions and concerns. 

“And, if you’re on the listening end, be a supportive individual who responds with empathy, understanding, and compassion towards individuals who disclose their STI status,” Koh asserts.Recognise that an STI diagnosis can have emotional consequences, so avoid judgment or blame towards them.”


Can I still get jiggy even with an STI?

If you’re hoping to leave the doctor’s office and hop straight back into the sack, we’re going to need you to hold your horses and simmer down for a hot minute. “Engaging in sexual intimacy when diagnosed with an STI, especially if symptoms are present, is not recommended,” Koh asserts. “It’s essential to wait until your symptoms are fully cured before resuming any sexual activity.” Why? Simply put, trying to get it up (or, get it in) with an active STI can lead to discomfort or pain on your end. All in all, it’s better to prioritise your health and well-being over immediate desires.



What can you do to prevent an STI?

As far as staying safe goes, Koh has sage advice: “Make regular STI testing a routine part of your sexual health practices, especially if you have multiple partners or engage in casual relationships,” she says. “It is advisable to have regular check-ups every three to six months, especially for those who are sexually active. Knowing your own status helps in making informed decisions and reduces the risk of transmission.”

Do encourage your partners to undergo routine STI testing as well,” she adds. “Besides that, do encourage open and honest communication about sexual health with your partner or partners. Creating an environment where discussing STIs is normalised helps break down barriers and reduces stigma. Most importantly, ensure that you are always practising safe sex by using protection, getting vaccinated (where applicable), and being informed about the risks.”

All in all, if you have any questions or concerns about STIs, consult healthcare professionals or sexual health clinics. They can provide accurate information, testing options, and guidance on prevention and treatment.


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