Been diagnosed with an STI? Now what? - Play Safe
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If you’ve been diagnosed with a sexually transmissible infection (STI), you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed, worried or unsure about what’s next.

It might seem scary but getting an STI is not the end of the world. In fact, 4 million people in Australia will get an STI at some point in their life.

The good news is that most STIs are treatable and if managed correctly they shouldn’t cause any long-term health issues.

What do I do if I’m diagnosed with an STI?

If you’re diagnosed with a sexually transmissible infection (STI), you’ll need to do four things:

  1. Speak to your doctor about getting treatment started. This usually happens when you receive your diagnosis.  
  2. You may need to stop having sex until your doctor says it’s ok. This will depend on what STI you’ve been diagnosed with, but it’s important that you follow your doctor’s advice to keep your partner/s safe.
  3. Let any partner/s know. It is so important that you tell any current or recent partner/s that you’ve been diagnosed with an STI so they get tested too. If you’re not comfortable having this conversation, you can do it anonymously here.
  4. Prevent it from happening again by practicing safe sex 

How to get rid of a sexually transmitted infection

If you’ve been diagnosed with an STI, your doctor will talk you through any treatment and/or management options. Some common STI treatments include:

  • a course of antibiotic tablets
  • antibiotic injections
  • topical treatments (creams and ointments)

Can STIs be cured?

Good news! Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis are all 100% curable with antibiotics.

Other STIs like genital herpes and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) aren’t ‘curable’, but they are manageable, meaning that you can still enjoy a long and healthy (sex) life.

Can I have sex while I’m being treated for an STI?

How quickly you can start having sex again after starting treatment for an STI will vary depending on the STI and whether you have any symptoms. Check with your doctor or call the Sexual Health Inforlink on 1800 451 624 to get personalised advice.

Typically it’s best to avoid sex:

  • If you are still experiencing symptoms
  • For the first 7 days after you start treatment

If you do have sex before then, make sure you talk to your partner/s first and use a condom.

Contact tracing for sexually transmitted infections

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with an STI, you’ll need to think about who you’ve had vaginal, anal or oral sex with in the last few months or since your last negative STI test so they can get tested (your doctor will help you figure out how far back you need to go). This process is referred to as contract tracing and is important because it helps to reduce the spread of STIs in the wider community.

Who do I need to tell that I’ve got an STI?

If you’ve been diagnosed with an STI, your doctor will help you figure out who you need to tell, as it will depend on the STI and what (if any) symptoms you are experiencing. 

It’s a good rule of thumb to let anyone you’ve had sexual contact with in the last 6-12 months or since your last negative STI test know, so they can get tested. 

Once you’ve let any sexual contacts know, it’s totally up to you who you do or don’t tell.

How do I tell someone that I’ve got an STI?

There are so many ways you can approach these kinds of conversations and the way you play it is completely up to you. Typically though, there’s two options, letting them know directly and letting them know anonymously.

Let them know directly

Letting someone know that you have an STI directly (they know the message is coming from you) can be difficult but is the best option if you feel safe doing so. 

You can let them know face to face, over the phone, via text or even send them a DM. It’s a good idea to think about what you’re going to say and avoid any blame. It’s likely going to be a nerve wracking and potentially awkward conversation no matter what, so if you want our advice (we’ve been there), keep reading…

  1. Keep it private. Whether you’re meeting in person, chatting on the phone or messaging on social, make sure it’s private. It should go without saying, but this convo is not one for the group chat.
  2. Be the bigger person. Even if you suspect that this person gave you the STI, try to remain calm, supportive and kind. Arguing about it won’t change anything.
  3. Give them the information they need. At the end of the day, how much information you disclose is completely up to you, but at a minimum you should let them know what STI you’ve been diagnosed with so they can get tested for it. If they have any questions about testing or treatment, let them know that it’s probably best that they chat to a doctor. Consider letting them know how easy the test and treatment was for you, it might help put their mind at ease!
  4. Use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘you’ statements. No one is at fault here, so saying things like ‘You’ve given me gonorrhea’ isn’t going to help anyone. Trust us on this one.

Send an anonymous STI text

Alternatively, if you don’t feel safe letting someone know that you have an STI directly, you can send them an anonymous text using one of the below free services.

Let Them Know

Not only does this website let you text or email partner/s anonymously, but they also have a bunch of free templates, videos and advice if you decide to let people know directly. Learn more.

The Drama Down Under

The Drama Down Under is the same sort of thing but specialises in servicing men who have sex with men. Learn more.

Better to Know

Yep, you guessed it, same again but Better to Know is specifically designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Learn more.

Do I legally have to tell someone if I have an STI?

Whilst there is no specific law that requires you to tell a sexual partner,  you are legally required to take reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of an infection. That means practicing safe sex and being upfront with your partner about any potential risks. If you don’t take reasonable precautions, you could face a fine or even jail time.

How can I lower my risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection?

Remember, one of the most important things to do after you’ve been diagnosed with an STI is think about out how you can prevent it from happening again.

  1. Use protection. Condoms are the best way to protect yourself from STIs.
  2. Get regular STI tests. Not all STIs have symptoms, so a lot of the time getting tested is the only way to know if you have an STI. We suggest getting tested at least every 6-12 months and earlier if you have any symptoms, change sexual partners, or have unprotected sex.
  3. Talk with your partner/s. Open and honest communication about safe sex is key to reducing your risk of STIs.
  4. Consider taking PrEP. PrEP is a tablet that can be taken by people who do not have HIV, to protect them from contracting HIV.

Do you have questions about sexually transmitted infections or sexual health? Why not join the conversation on the Play Safe sex and relationship forum or ask Nurse Nettie a question. Or find out more about STI testing and STI treatment in Sydney and NSW.