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DocSpot: He may not tell you he has an STI

Dear Dr Margaret
I think I have a sexual infection but I don’t know how I got it. I haven’t been with anyone except my boyfriend and I know if he had something he would have told me. I am 17 years of age.

First of all you need to find out whether you really do have a sexually-transmitted infection. There might be other reasons for your problem. For example, itching or soreness of the vagina is often due to thrush, which is not sexually transmitted. Or it could be caused by scented bubble bath or soap. Don’t just worry about the problem: see your doctor or go to a genitourinary medicine clinic for tests so that you know what the real situation is.
 
Don’t depend on your boyfriend telling you if he had an infection. He may not. Earlier this year researchers in France asked over 6000 teenagers the following questions: “The last time you had a sexually transmitted infection, did you talk about it to the partner you had at the time? Did you talk about it to previous partners? Did you not inform any of your partners?”. Over half (51%) of the teenage males who had a sexual infection said they had not told their partner. Telling a partner about a sexual infection is tough, so its not surprising that they chickened out. But the researchers discovered that the teenage females were perhaps braver or more responsible – only 9% said they had not told their partner about an infection.
 
The researchers also carried out a survey of adults; 14% of men with a sexually transmitted infection had not informed their main partner, but only 2% of women had kept quiet about their infection.
There are two obvious messages for everyone from this research. First, people should protect themselves against sexual infections by using condoms, because their partners may not inform them. This is particularly important for women, because men are less likely to tell, and sexual infections in women can have serious consequences such as infertility. Secondly, if your partner does tell you about a sexual infection, recognize that he or she has done the correct thing even though it might have been difficult. You can then go to a clinic for tests and treatment. And, of course, if you are treated you will not pass it back to your partner.
 
Source: This research was published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections 2002; 78: 45–9.

Last updated; Thursday, July 6th 2017


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