Why do I need to tell someone I have an STI?

Contact tracing (or what's sometimes called partner notification) is telling someone you've recently had sex with that you have an STI and that they could also be at risk.

While it might feel awkward or scary to tell someone you have an STI, it’s the right thing to do.

Firstly, it can stop you from getting re-infected as your sexual partner may have the same infection without even knowing (remember many STIs don't have any symptoms).

Secondly, it lets your sexual partners know they need to get tested as well.

Thirdly, contact tracing reduces the amount of STIs in the community, keeping more people safe from getting an infection.

Most people want to know if they're at risk of an STI, so it’s in both your interests to share what you know.

Work out who to tell

The first step is to work out which sexual partners – past and current – you need to tell.

How far back you go will depend on the STI you have and when you were tested. Even if you’ve used a condom, you’ll still need to let those people know.

Your healthcare provider can help you figure out who to tell.

How to tell sexual partners about your STI

The next step is to tell your sexual partners that you have an STI. There are different ways to do this. Choose a way that feels safest and most comfortable for you.

1. Tell them yourself

If you want to tell someone yourself, whether it’s in a conversation, or through a text or email, here are some tips to help.

Do it straight away

The more you put it off the harder it can be. It can also mean that if you're still having sex with them, you’re at risk of getting it again if they haven’t been tested.

Plan what you're going to say

Be prepared with your words. Your healthcare provider or counsellor can help you make a plan for what to say.

Consider everyone's privacy and safety

Remember, you only need to give people the essential information – the type of STI you have, that they could be at risk, and that they should get tested just in case.

2. Tell them anonymously

If talking to your sexual partners in person isn’t an option, there are other ways of letting them know.

One option is to use a contact tracing website to send an SMS or email to your partners. Your message can be anonymous, or you can send it with your name.

Contact tracing websites

Your healthcare provider can also tell your sexual partners on your behalf. They can do this discreetly without identifying you. This is a good option if telling someone will put your personal safety at risk.

Health advice over the phone

Get free and confidential health advice by calling 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84). You can call 24 hours a day and speak to a registered nurse.

Last updated: March 2024