If you have been diagnosed with a sexually transmissible infection (STI), your current and past partners should be told that they might be at risk so they can access testing and treatment, if needed. Telling your partners means you can prevent your own re-infection and stop the spread of infection.
The process of telling your sexual partners or sexual contacts is known as contact tracing (sometimes referred to as partner notification). The purpose of contact tracing is to find people who may have the infection and to help them, not to blame them.
Work out who to tell
Your doctor or sexual health nurse can discuss with you the best way to inform partners/people you've had sexual contact with. If you have any difficulties in contacting sexual partners, your health care provider or a sexual health clinic may be able to assist.
How far back should you go when contacting sexual partners depends on the STI:
- chlamydia—up to 6 months
- gonorrhoea—at least 2 months
- syphilis—up to 12 months
- HIV—outer limit is onset of risk behaviour or last known negative HIV test result.
Depending on your circumstances, these timeframes may be longer. If so, your health care provider will advise you.
Decide how to tell your sexual partners
You'll need to let your partners know which infection you have been treated for and encourage them to have a check-up through a health care provider or sexual health clinic.
You can contact them in person, by phone or SMS, email, or by using a contact tracing website. You can choose to send your message anonymously or put your name on the message when using these websites:
Tips on how to tell your sexual partners
If you're wanting to tell someone in person, whether it's in a conversation, through a text or by email, here are some tips to help.
- Do it straight away—the more you put it off the harder it can be to tell them. It can also mean you're still at risk if your sexual partner hasn't been tested.
- Plan what you're going to say—telling someone you have an STI can be difficult. Using phrases such as "I need to tell you something, I've just found out I have an STI" can help you start the conversation.
- Be considerate of privacy—if phoning them, ask if it's a good time to talk before giving them the news.
- Don't blame—avoid phrases like "you've given me chlamydia" as you might cause unnecessary anger or defensiveness. Remember to keep yourself safe and know that most people would never pass on an STI on purpose.
- Remember that you don't have to provide them with a lot of information—they may have a few questions to ask after you've let them know. You could have a fact sheet handy, send them to a website with reputable information or a phone number for a sexual health clinic to help them access the information they're needing.
In some cases, it may not be appropriate for you to tell your partners yourself, for example, if there is concern over a violent reaction or a history of domestic violence. In these cases, it is recommended that your health care provider contacts your sexual partners to advise them to get tested. Your health care provider can discreetly contact them without identifying you in any way.
Treat your infection
Treatment is available for most STIs from GP clinics, Aboriginal medical services or your nearest sexual health clinic. Remember to have another STI test in 3 months or as recommended by your health care provider to be sure the infection has cleared.
Make sure you have safe sex. Use condoms and water-based lubricant and have a sexual health check-up at least once a year.