STIs and relationships: What you need to know

Reality check: More than half of all people who have sex will get a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in their lifetime.

Women between the ages of 15 and 24 have about a 1 in 30 chance of contracting a common STI like chlamydia or gonorrhea.

We hope that doesn’t include you—and we want to help you prevent it—but if it does happen, it’s your responsibility to tell your partners. Yep, even if you might lose them. Even if you’re scared. Even if you’re afraid the news will get around. It’s the right thing to do.

The Basics

STIs are easy to get and spread. You can have an STI with no symptoms and not know you have it. So can your partner. You can even use protection and still transmit an STI. Scary? You bet. But many are curable. Others are manageable with meds. Bedsider addresses a lot of questions about STIs and we have a great piece on reducing your risk. You can also reach out to San Francisco Sex Information for confidential information on this topic and many more.

When and How to Tell Your Partner

We’ve addressed difficult conversations before, but for a detailed guide on when to tell someone and how to tell someone, we highly recommend Jenelle Marie’s articles over at The STD Project. She suggests doing it in person and in private. Honesty is obviously important. Timing is sort of subjective, but she has insight there too. You’ll also find lots of links and resources to continue exploring this challenging task.

There’s also Hula. It’s an app that helps you find your ideal STI test center and keep track of your health records. And for some serious cred—without having to have an awkward conversation—you can use Hula to share your verified STI status online or on your device.

So They Can Know can also help you reveal your status. It’s a website “designed to improve sexual health by giving people the ability to anonymously inform their partners of possible sexually transmitted disease (STD) transmission.” It exists to “fill in the gaps when people are unable or unwilling to notify their partners some other way.”

We understand that relationships are hard enough without having to deal with STIs. But the right partner will always be willing to work through this with you—so be brave, be smart, and be safe.


P.S. Good news: The HPV vaccine is working. If you’re considering it, this might help you make up your mind.