sex

'A doctor told me I had an STI. And immediately I knew I had to make some phone calls.'

Back in my single wild days, I was a very sexually active and adventurous young woman. I had my fun with my girl roommates, one-night stands, and the cute guy across the hall.

Drunk, high, and everything in between, I always remembered to ask my new partners if they were clean and when was the last time they were tested. It was my way of keeping myself safe while sleeping with strangers.

But this method wasn’t foolproof.

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These bills of health were purely verbal, so I was taking the chance that my sexual partners would lie. I was taking the chance that I was so drunk when we had sex, I’d forget their answer by the next morning.

So as back up, I insisted my partners wore protection.

And then the one thing I had been trying to avoid happened.

I caught an STI.

And I realised I was completely unprepared for the awkward phone calls that I had to make.

I was a responsible sexually active woman, and as awkward and painful as these phone calls would be, if someone I had sex with had contracted something, I’d want them to pick up the phone and let me know.

I knew people personally who had contracted a minor STI, and they were so embarrassed that they refused to tell their sexual partner.

I think that is one of the saddest things you can do to someone.

I took a few deep breaths, picked up the phone, and called my friend B.

“Hey. So… I know we haven’t seen each other in a few weeks. Since we’ve been having sex regularly, I just wanted to let you know I went to get tested and I have something minor. I’m taking antibiotics and it should take care of itself after that. Do you know the last time you got tested?”

His reaction was not what I was expecting at all.

“Wow, thank you so much for calling me. No one has ever done that.”

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“Really?”

“Really. I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been for you to call me. Thank you. I was tested a few weeks ago, but I’ll make an appointment to get tested again.”

I was blown away. I was expecting to feel dirty and embarrassed when I told him I had an STI. But he made me feel like a human being. He made me feel how I was supposed to feel, like a person who caught an infection through sex.

It wasn’t the end of the world. Most STDs are common and can be treated with medicine if caught in time. (Did you know there are over 20 million new cases of STDs reported annually?)

“Okay… thanks for being so cool about it,” I said.

“It’s no biggie. Nothing some antibiotics can’t fix. Thanks for letting me know.”

“You’re welcome.”

*Click*

It was that easy.

And to my shock again, my second sexual partner who I called had pretty much the same reaction.

He was an adult about it. He thanked me for calling him. Sure, he wasn’t enthusiastic about having to make an appointment to get himself checked, but he appreciated the information. Sure, he didn’t ask me out or set a date for when we would see each other again, but he wasn’t rude to me.

I wondered, is this what it was like to sleep with mature partners?

Listen: Mamamia’s Daily news podcast, The Quicky, discuss how Anti-Vaxxers are using slut-shaming to prevent vaccinations. Post continues below.

So, chances are, if you’re a responsible sexually active person who is getting tested regularly, and you’ve caught an STI, your partner may or may not react as cool as mine did.

But you’re doing the right thing by calling them and letting them know. It’s the decent thing to do. It doesn’t mean it will be any less awkward, but at least when you hang up, you’ll know you did what was right.

So how do you handle that awkward conversation?

How to tell someone you’ve caught an STD.

Specifically, how to tell the person you might or might not have caught it from.

Step 1. So you’ve already completed the first step which is get tested. Did you know it’s possible to have an STI with no symptoms? If your test results show you have contracted something, minor or major, let your sexual partner(s) know.

Step 2. Take some deep breaths and say it straight. If it’s too hard in person, give them a phone call. Don’t sugarcoat it or change the subject. Let them know why you’re calling.

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You can copy and paste from my conversation:

“Hey. So…I know we haven’t seen each other in a few weeks. Since we’ve been having sex regularly, I just wanted to let you know I went to get tested and I have something minor. I’m taking antibiotics and it should take care of itself after that. Do you know the last time you got tested?”

Step 3. Be prepared for any wild assortment of reactions. They may thank you for letting them know like mine did. They may accuse you of having sex with half of the population. They may call you names, they may tell their friends.

But their reaction will tell you everything you need to know about them as a person.

If you call someone out of the goodness of your heart to inform them of their risk of catching an STD, and they make fun of you, I’d highly advise you to never see this person again.

You don’t need someone in your life who will make you feel dirty while you’re going through something uncomfortable and also extremely common.

No one needs that.

Don’t try to remind them that they may have been the ones who gave it to you. Don’t fight or argue if someone is giving you a hard time. Just give them the information, and move on.

Step 4. Breathe and take care of yourself. No matter how painful or smooth the conversation was, your biggest worry now is to be treated. Take your antibiotics, follow doctor’s orders, and get tested again after finishing your medication.

Having a conversation with a sexual partner about sexually transmitted diseases and infections is the furthest thing from sexy.

No one wants to have this conversation. Literally, nobody.

But when the situation arises, you have a choice to make.

You can keep this information to yourself, knowing you’re potentially hurting someone else’s health by not letting them know, or you can be an adult, swallow your pride, and give them the bad news.

After all, if someone you were sleeping with contracted an STD, wouldn’t you want them to give you a call?

This article pro­vides gen­eral infor­ma­tion about med­i­cine, health and related sub­jects. My words and other con­tent pro­vided in this article are not intended and should not be used in place of professional med­ical advice. If the reader or any other per­son has a med­ical con­cern, please con­sult with a licensed physi­cian for more information.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia, but has chosen to remain anonymous.

Feature image: Getty.

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