Why is STI partner notification so important?
31 March 2017 by - Dr Pandelis Athanasias
Finding out you have contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI) can be a distressing time, often causing feelings of shame and embarrassment. These emotions, mixed with the stigma attached to such infections and the growing worry of needing to inform your past sexual partners, can justifiably cause a lot of emotional distress.
However, informing your recent sexual partners is imperative for helping stop the spread of disease, whilst also protecting yourself and your partners.
STIs are more common than you think
It is important to recognise that STIs, particularly chlamydia, are very common in the UK, predominantly amongst 16-25 year olds. Most STIs are easily treatable and if caught early on, should pose no long-term health threats. Though you may feel a sense of embarrassment at first, you should realise that you are not alone and that STIs are far more widespread than you think.
STIs are often regarded as a sensitive or taboo topic of discussion, so of course, the idea of telling your past partners that you may have passed an infection onto them seems very daunting. Understandably, this is a discussion that nobody wants to have. However, in order to help stop the spread of infection, it is extremely important that all relevant past sexual partners be informed. Without treatment, your previous partners are at risk of passing the infection onto others or even passing it back to you once you have been treated.
Most STIs are symptomless
Many STIs carry no symptoms and for this reason, the majority of people often do not realise they have been infected. If left untreated, several STIs can cause long-term health problems, such as infertility in women.
Though the task ahead might seem overwhelming at first, once complete, the feeling of relief of knowing that you have done the right thing can be very rewarding.
A free NHS e-notification service
Fortunately, many sexual health clinics in the UK now offer a free electronic partner notification service, which acts as a way to anonymously inform your sexual partners via text message. Gone are the days where people would have to awkwardly contact each one of their past sexual encounters – technology is here to do the hard work for you.
Whether you choose to inform your past partners of STI exposure face-to-face, over the phone, or through an anonymous e-notification service; there is no hard and fast rule on the best way to do so. The only bad way to handle the situation is by choosing not to disclose. It may be a difficult task to undertake, but it is definitely something that must happen in order to protect yourself and others.
Visit our sexually transmitted infections page to read more about how several STIs are diagnosed and treated.