disclosing your STI status to your partners

The best way to disclose your status to your partner(s)

Disclosing your STI status to your sexual partner(s) shouldn’t feel like the end of the world. We’ve been conditioned to think this way, and it takes time to dismantle these notions. Disclosing your STI status should be a more comfortable and manageable endeavor. We made this guide to help you decide the best way to disclose your STI status and reformat your own perspective around STIs.

Before we go into deets, let’s affirm a few things:

It’s a two way street (or multi-way, depending on what fun you’re engaging in). Regardless of your STI status, everyone involved has the right to ask about each other’s STI status (when you last got a test, what your current status is, what you got tested for, etc.) Everyone has the right to request what would make the experience best for them depending on those answers, and have that respected. 

Sorry y’all, “safe sex” is a popular term these days. We’re here to tell you that there is only “safer sex”. Most people don’t know that when they get tested for “everything” at their annual checkup, it doesn’t mean everything. There are many STIs out there, more than the ones you typically hear about. And even the typical ones, doctor’s won’t test for them unless you explicitly ask them to (ie. HSV1/HSV2, or herpes, is never tested for unless requested or you have symptoms, and HPV is not tested in men because there is still no approved test). Many STIs are asymptomatic (such as chlamydia and gonorrhea), and some can lie dormant for years without showing symptoms, so there’s no way to know you have them unless you get tested. No matter how many precautions you take, there is always a risk of transmission. 

All of this to say, STIs are a normal part of having sex. The more you know, the more you realize this. Don’t let STIs deter you from having your pleasure and eating your friends out too–regardless of your status, everyone deserves the fun they desire.

I’m negative, cheers to that:

Congrats on getting an STI test! It’s the only way to ensure that you’re healthy and keeping others healthy too! 

When you do have a conversation about your STI status, try to avoid using the term “clean” to describe that you’re negative. This wrongly implies that you’re somehow “dirty” if you’re positive, which is totally not the case. In order to dismantle the stigma surrounding STIs, we have to recognize that the language we have used in the past is no longer acceptable or appropriate. 

Oh f*ck, I’m positive:

You’re probably feeling some level of anxiety at the moment. Coming to terms with a positive diagnosis AND trying to figure out the best way to disclose your status to your partner your partner(s) is a lot to handle at once! Let’s break it down into smaller steps.

1. Come to terms with your status first.

If you yourself haven’t processed it, you’ll have a much harder time discussing your status with someone else. The thing is, shame, guilt, and anxiety are contagious–if you feel this about your diagnosis, you will most certainly be projecting these. These feelings are common, but having a positive diagnosis is NOT YOUR FAULT and you deserve to. You can do this in many forms–educate yourself, find others who have had similar experiences (there are so many wonderful STI/STD advocates and educators out there), and/or confide in your close friends first. You’ll come to realize that a positive diagnosis does NOT change people’s attitudes towards you. You are not any less desirable or sexy with a positive diagnosis. We can tell you this over and over again, but ultimately, it’s a matter of coming to this conclusion yourself.

2. Talk about your status with your partner(s) before things get heated.

The goal is to have this conversation in a situation where all parties are capable of understanding making informed decisions and respecting them. Does a glass of wine (or six) make you a little silly? Do lines of coke make you inexplicably horny? Try to refrain from substances you know affect your good judgment (we can roll with things that help you relax). Once clothes come off we’re in the danger zone! Try to remain in a headspace where consent can be freely given without coercion.

3. Disclose your status in a way you feel comfortable.

Sometimes you won’t have the foresight, sometimes you’ll have gone over the scenario infinite times. Whatever situation you’re in, have the discussion where you feel safe. You are in control of what environment you want to be in when you disclose! It will take time to feel out what makes the most sense for you. Our friends have a variety of different methods to do this–upfront on their dating app profile, through text, on a walk, during that sweet spot before dinner and going home at night. One even made a powerpoint presentation to go through after an initial in-person disclosure! Do it your way.

4. Empower yourself and your partner(s) with resources.

What really helps is morphing an unknown prospect (STIs) into something understandable. The best way to disclose your status to your partner takes into account answering any questions they may have around how you are managing your sexual health. Help them wrap their head around what this means for them, and what precautions they should take. Give them resources to check out if they want more information. If you’ve slept with them before and are coming back with an STI diagnosis, tell them the steps they need to take to check up on themselves. Depending on the situation this could be as easy as getting tested with Ash!

5. Respect boundaries and uphold your own.

Whatever happens, you are desirable, sexy, and deserve to fulfill all of your sexual fantasies (go back to step 1). Sometimes rejection will happen, but this is not a rejection of you yourself–try not to take it personally. There are a plethora of reasons people reject others, not the least because of an infection affecting our sexual organs. Respect their decision, whatever it may be, and remember to take care of yourself during the process too!

Before figuring out the best way to disclose your status to your partner make sure that you have been recently tested in order to give them the most up-to-date information. Getting tested with Ash is easy and discreet and you will receive your results online. If you test positive for an STI we will put you in touch with a nearby doctor or clinic and guide you along the way.

Have more questions about the best way to disclose your status to your partner? Get in touch or learn more on our Instagram @meetashwellness.