There is a lot of misinformation and stigma about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which can make the topic difficult and uncomfortable to discuss. However, STIs are common and can affect men and women of all ages. Globally, over 1 million people acquire an STI every day [1], therefore it is vital to understand what you should do if you receive a positive test result.

Speaking about sexual health is not something we are taught how to do, but it is an important part of our well-being. The unnecessary shame and stigma associated with STIs can lead to an increase in the spread of infection, prevent people from receiving treatment, and have a negative impact on their health and quality of life.

Choosing who to tell about a positive STI result is entirely your choice. However, it is very important to make sure that you tell any past or current partners who may have been at risk.

So, how do you break the news that you have an STI? Here are 7 steps you can take.

1. Get tested

As many STIs present no symptoms, it is very easy to have an infection without even realising it. You may not exhibit any noticeable symptoms for months after initial infection, yet you can still pass on the STI to others. Therefore, it is important to get tested regularly in order to protect your own health and your partner’s. By getting tested for a full range of STIs, you can be sure which infection(s) you have.

2. Stay calm 

Remember that people all over the world contract STIs so you are not the only one dealing with a positive result. Try to enter the conversation with a calm and positive attitude. Having an STI doesn’t mean anything about you as a person.

3. Be aware of the facts 

Don’t take everything you hear about STIs at face value. Do your research to understand how STIs are passed and the potential risks that are involved. Be armed with the knowledge you need, such as whether your STI can be cured or treated. You can use Better2Know’s website to find out more about STIs.

4. Choose your timing

Pick a time when you won’t be distracted or disturbed. A calm and private environment is ideal. If you decide to have a face-to-face conversation, pick a location where you will feel secure and comfortable. If you are worried, you can practise out loud with yourself or a close friend. It might help you to determine exactly what you want to say. If you can’t meet in person or don’t feel comfortable doing so, a text message, phone call or video chat is an alternative option.

Speech bubbles.

5. Open the conversation

Although you are the one breaking the news, you shouldn’t always lead the conversation. Listen to the other person, too. Expect a surprise. Different people will react differently in these situations. While some may become anxious, others may feel angry or may require more time to process the situation. Ensure that you allow some breathing room. 

6. Encourage questions

Explain the facts regarding transmission, symptoms, treatment and risks throughout the discussion. This is likely to provide clarification but may also spark some further questions. If you can’t answer every question you are asked, do not worry. You might decide to bring an article or leaflet about your STI with you.

FYI: At the bottom of each of Better2Know’s STI Info pages, we provide a free fact sheet with all the information you need. Why not check out our Chlamydia page for reference?

7. Prioritise your health 

It is natural to be concerned about how the other person may respond. Acknowledge that you have done the right thing by getting tested and discuss what you can both do to stay safe in the future. You never know, the chat may even bring you closer together in the end.


Opening up, becoming vulnerable, and sharing something about yourself and your sexual experiences can be nerve-wracking. It is a challenging task, so be proud of yourself for being brave and starting the conversation.

If you or your partner require any further testing, Better2Know is here to help you. Speak to our highly trained sexual health advisors in confidence today by phone or live chat. Our dedicated team is here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help you gain peace of mind surrounding your sexual health. We can arrange confidential STI testing with fast and accurate results at a clinic near you, with a private nurse visit, or you can order a convenient home test kit.


[1] World Health Organisation: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

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