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Personal Story

How I Told a Sex Partner That He Might Have an STI

February 14, 2017

George M. Johnson

George M. Johnson (Credit: Tyson Evans)

It can be quite freeing not only to live in your truth but also to tell it when it can be beneficial to others. This story is no different. As an avid user of the social media app Jack'd, I am no stranger to logging in occasionally and looking for a person to hook up with. This time was like every other as we exchanged a few quick responses and some X-rated pictures, followed by phone numbers and an address.

He arrived about 10 minutes later and we went into the bedroom. As he entered, we didn't waste any time getting undressed as we both had prior obligations we needed to attend. After a few kisses, we both got undressed, and he got into position on his knees with his rear facing me. That's when I noticed we had a problem.

Thinking quickly, I informed him that it didn't look clean in his rectal area and that he could use my bathroom. I gave him a rag and off he went. During that time, I decided how I would approach the conversation.

By the time he came back into the room, I had gotten dressed, and I told him that I needed to talk to him about something. Of course, he looked at me as if I were crazy, but I told him to get dressed and hear me out. He put on his underwear and sat on the edge of the bed.

I explained to him that I worked in HIV prevention and sexually transmitted disease (STI) testing, and I was concerned about some discoloration and what appeared to be warts around his rectal area. I assured him that I was not in any way a doctor giving a diagnosis, but due to my work, I knew what certain STIs could look like, and it would be in his best interest to get it evaluated. He then looked scared and concerned. I told him not to be worried, but that he definitely needed to get it checked before it got any worse. He said thank you, and I walked him to the door.

I haven't heard from him since that time, but it got me thinking about how many others may choose or not choose to navigate these conversations. We aren't all working in the field of sexual health. However, we do know that if we notice something that makes us uncomfortable, it is in our best interest to do what we can to deal with it. So, what should one do if one encounters this situation?

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When I posed this question to some Facebook followers, two scenarios came up: Some people felt they could say it without a problem; others feared for their safety in bringing up this stigmatized subject. The following will take us through both.

If you feel the situation is safe:

  1. Remain calm and address it directly
    There is no need to beat around the bush when discussing this serious subject. If you notice something, say something. Making sure that you are educated about your own sexual health will empower you to discuss the topic with others. Stop intercourse if it could present a risk, and have the conversation about what you saw, felt or have concerns about. Don't proceed unless you are comfortable.
  2. Ensure Confidentiality
    No one is eager to be told that they have an STI. Furthermore, the panic of others knowing is probably more intimidating than knowing oneself. So, make sure your sexual partner knows that the information will stay between the two of you.

If you feel the situation may be dangerous:

  1. Don't panic
    I think about how I could've freaked out and yelled something irrational that could have caused an immediate confrontation. One must have self-control when discussing one's partner's private sexual health.

    This concern was something that definitely registered with me immediately, which was why I created an excuse to have time to think about a proper way to say what needed to be said. Staying calm and attempting to keep the environment as peaceful as possible is important when trying to have that type of conversation.
  2. Think of your safety first
    As important as it is to tell someone that they may have an STI, it should not come at the expense of putting yourself in a potentially harmful or dangerous situation, as people can act unpredictably around stigmatized issues. Should you be in a situation where you are about to engage in sex and you notice a symptom or a sign that it may not be a healthy situation for you, your first thought should be how you can stay safe. Remember that you are not obligated to have sex under any circumstances in which you are uncomfortable. Be transparent enough to state that, and leave of your own accord.
  3. You don't have to address it at the time; tell them after you are safely away
    Once you feel that you are in a safe place, it is okay to send a message to the person with your concerns. It is not your job to counsel or diagnose, but you can share your concerns and encourage them to get checked out. I can't emphasize enough the importance of your own safety. If you don't feel safe saying something at the time, it is in your best interest to do what you must to make your exit.

Also, remember that STIs don't always show symptoms. So, people can have one unknowingly and not be receiving proper care. Furthermore, STIs can appear in locations that a person might not be checking regularly or that they simply cannot see if it is in an internal area.

STIs happen. With proper treatment, they can be cured in many cases. The important thing is to be prepared to have these types of sex-related conversations with your sexual partners in a way that feels safe to you. Furthermore, if someone tells you that you may have an STI, listen to them and don't get offended.

George M. Johnson is a writer based in the Washington, D.C., area. He has written for Huffpost, Ebony.com, Pride.com and Diverseeducation.com, and has a monthly column in A&U magazine. He is a loyal member of the Beyhive and you can follow him on Twitter @iamgmjohnson.

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