Life really is hard sometimes, Anne Smith. All we want to do is have a good time and then a pesky STI gets in the way.


All the professional advice tells us to inform our partners before things get physical. Great idea in theory. But we're rarely told how to bring these things up naturally, hey? While I recommend asking your potential partner if they’ve ever had an STI, there are plenty of ways to broach the conversation. And if you ever need a prompt, just think of the handy acronym, STARS (thanks, Dr. Evelin Dacker!)

  • Sexual Health/STIs Status
    What's your STI status? Have you ever had an STI, and do you have anything to disclose about your sexual health?

  • Turn-Ons
    What are your desires and preferences? What do you enjoy or find pleasurable when it comes to connection, intimacy and sex?

  • Avoids
    What turns you off? What are your aversions, boundaries and triggers?

  • Relationship Intentions/Expectations
    What does sex and intimacy mean to you? Who are you in this space and what do you expect from your partner(s)?

  • Safety Needs
    Finally, what are your emotional, physical and spiritual sexual requests and requirements to help you feel safe, secure and supported.

A cough, a splutter, a clear and resounding 'yes'. Whatever their answer or reaction, this prompt is a great segue into your health status and a general discussion around sexual needs and desires. Sure, this conversation may seem a little awkward at first, but it can certainly save much more awkward ones later down the track. 


Symptomatic or not, it's important to let your potential partner know exactly what you (and they) are dealing with and how you can practice safe sex. Answer all their questions and acknowledge their concerns as best you can – considering that not everyone is on the same sexual health journey as you are. Most people will respect your honesty and vulnerability (fuck yeah) and you will have a great foundation from which to build an intimate relationship. However, if the reaction is judgemental, disrespectful or hurtful, fuck ‘em. 



Some of them come and go and most of them are successfully cured, after which there is no risk of transmission (so you don’t have to divulge anything if you don’t want to). However, if you're in the throes of it, you've gotta tell your partner(s) and take precautions.

If you have a viral infection, like herpes or HIV, then you’ve got to spill the beans - even if you’re not currently experiencing symptoms. Incurable STI’s can be managed and your risk of transmission can be reduced when you take precautions such as taking antiviral medication or using condoms correctly.

And It's not to say that these STI's are more insidious than others, it's more that the stigma around them can often stifle healthy conversations around awareness, treatment and action in preventing them – perpetuating the stigma, spread and mental health issues surrounding them.


STIs have direct impact on sexual and reproductive health through stigmatisation, infertility, chronic pain, cancers, pregnancy complications and can increase the risk of HIV. Rates of chlamydia are rising substantially in Australia, particularly among young people, with most people showing no symptoms. Yikes!

About 16 per cent of Australians report having an STI at some point in their lifetime.

So, if you have multiple partners, please do yourself (and them) a favour by getting a sexual health check every three to six months. Do an online symptom checker or visit a sexual health clinic and get tested. And always use condoms and barriers, like these new latex undies that are handy for STI prevention.

You aren't alone, Anne. In summary:

  1. Cut to the chase
  2. Give all the facts
  3. Lotsa people have one
  4. Promote open conversation and destigmatisation
  5. Own it. Know your risk, know how to manage your situation and how to have gloriously consensual and communicative sex.



If like one in eight sexually-active Australians, you have genital herpes and aren't quite sure where to go from here, please check out the brilliant podcast and publication, Something Positive for Positive People

Herpes-positive human and podcaster Courtney Brame is out here destigmatising genital herpes, one open conversation at a time. Tune into their podcast for stories and advice on how to broach the conversation with your partner(s).