Got STDs? Who, What and When to Reveal

If you’ve been diagnosed with an STD, you may be concerned about who finds out and what your obligations are when it comes to reporting your infection to previous sexual partners.  You may also be concerned that this information will become public and affect your in areas such as your career, ability to get health insurance, and your relationships in social circles.

Testing and Confidentiality

First it’s important to know that when you have anonymous testing, no one but you will know that you have been diagnosed.  If you have confidential testing with a health clinic that information can become part of your medical record and your insurance company can be notified.

In some cases this isn’t a big deal.  For example, if you have a bacterial infection that is easily treated this is less of an issue.  However, if you have something that can’t be cured and may require expensive treatment such as HIV, it may be important to keep that out of your medical record in order to avoid the status of a preexisting condition.

The healthcare laws are constantly changing, so it’s important to read up on the current legislation before making the decision to go from anonymous to confidential testing.

Health Department Notification

When you test positive for an STD, that information is generally reported to the local health department.  However, your personal information is detached from any information about your disease status.

This information helps health departments to understand how many people in a specific area are infected with specific diseases.  Having this knowledge informs funding for prevention, testing, and treatment.

Partner Notification

One of the most anxiety producing but important consideration is partner notification.  This is the process of letting people know they may have been exposed to an STD because of contact with you.  No one enjoys this part.

However, it’s important that people who may have been infected have the opportunity to be tested and treated as soon as possible.  There are a couple of ways to do this.  First, you can contact previous and current partners directly.

For some people it’s possible to do this with very little emotional guilt or baggage.  However, in some cases this approach carries the risk of setting off anger and can even put one in danger.

If you feel that it isn’t safe to notify a current or previous partner, one way you can still do the right thing is to allow the health department to perform partner notification.  They will ask you to list all partners who may have been exposed along with each person’s contact information.

Then the health department will take the responsibility of notifying your partners without revealing who the infected person is.  They will simply tell them that someone they have had a sexual relationship with has tested positive.  In some cases this will prevent one from knowing your identity but if a person has had limited partners he or she may be able to deduce that it is you.

The earlier you allow your partners to find out, the better off they will be when it comes to their own personal health and it can also prevent their future partners from infecting even more people.

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