I've given someone an STI ... what do I tell previous partners?

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Dear Dr. Myrtle,

I’ve infected someone with an STI. Should I inform an ex-partner who gave me unprotected oral sex once? There was a definite mixing of secretions. Is there anything that this former partner could do now that would help?


I think that it’s important to tell your ex-partner that you found out that you have a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), because your ex-partner carries the risk of transferring the infection to other places on/in their bodies, as well as infecting other people. It’s part of taking care of the people you have been intimate with. Your ex can have his or her health professional do a complete STI screen, and in the case of a female partner, she can get a pap smear to check for HPV.

I feel so bad about all of this! I never meant for this to happen to anyone! Part of me doesn’t want to have sex with anyone any more because I’m so scared of giving it to someone.

Hey - no one goes out and tries to contract infections. You were just trying to find pleasure, and so was your partner.

I think the most important thing is for you to take charge of your own pleasure without endangering someone else’s health. The best things that you can do now are to really look at your feelings (which you are doing), and get more information (which you are doing). Beyond that, you need to seek help from a healthcare provider to get a complete STI screen for yourself, get the treatment that you need, and be as thorough as you can about protecting other people.

It’s hard to incorporate all the good suggestions about protecting ourselves from STIs. We are seeking pleasure, and sometimes a bacteria/virus/parasite happens to climb on for the ride. But this doesn’t mean that you have to completely stop being intimate with others. It’s how you are intimate, not that you are intimate that matters.

Some strategies that help are to think through the whole process of being intimate, from the "Hmmm" of a first sexual thought, through the seduction, through the sexual intimacy, all the way to floating back up out of the euphoria. Transmission can happen from seduction through the end of the intimacy. Can you develop strategies before you have the "hmmm" thought, on how to anticipate potential moments of transmission? Forethought before foreplay prevents sexually transmitted infections.

Take care, and make that clinic appointment for (you) me, eh?

Dr. Myrtle