What Not to Say to Someone With an STD

Being diagnosed with an STD is extraordinarily stressful. It can be hard to even imagine talking to partners about your situation, let alone discussing it with friends and relatives.

This is particularly true since people often have some serious misconceptions about sexually transmitted infections and can say some very cruel things. Here are five things not to say to someone who has an STD:


Ew, That's So Dirty

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There's a common misconception that only certain types of people get sexually transmitted diseases or that STDs make someone "dirty." That's cruel, unfortunate, and untrue. Anyone can get an STD. These infections don't discriminate on whether someone is "clean" or someone is "nice." They affect everyone.

A corollary to this statement is, "How could you not know that you slept with someone who was infected?" Many people think that people with STDs are visibly dirty. They think that it should be possible to tell someone is sick by looking at them closely enough. It just doesn't work that way. The vast majority of STDs are asymptomatic. That means that the only way to know that someone has one is to ask if they've recently been tested.


I Didn't Think You Slept Around That Much

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You don't have to sleep with a lot of partners to get an STD. You just have to sleep with someone who is infected and have the bad luck to get infected, too. Some people acquire an STD the very first time they have sex. Others sleep around for years with no lasting consequences—thanks to either religiously practicing safer sex, having extremely good luck, or both.

When you make judgments about someone's sexual history based on the fact that they have an STD, you're just showing your ignorance. You may also be implying that you're at risk as well. After all, if you think that only people who sleep around "a lot" have to worry about STDs, your definition of "a lot" may make you think that you're not at risk.


You Must Have Gotten It From [Name]—I Knew They Were a Bad Person

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As mentioned, you can't tell whether someone has an STD based on whether they're nice or not. Sometimes the most obnoxious people have really firm rules about safer sex. And there may be sweet, innocent people who never think to worry about what goes on in the bedroom.

A lot of people, in fact, are infected with STDs by people they love. Furthermore, those people often didn't know they were infected themselves. That's one reason why it's so important to talk about testing before getting into a long-term relationship.


Why Weren't You More Careful?

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Practicing safe sex, consistently and correctly, does drastically reduce your risk of getting an STD. However, it isn't perfect. Disease that spreads by skin-to-skin contact can be transmitted even when you are using barriers correctly each and every time you have sex.

Also, sometimes condoms break or other methods accidentally go wrong. Just because someone has an STD doesn't mean they weren't doing everything right. It may just mean that something went wrong.


I Don't Feel Comfortable Around You Anymore

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This may be the most horrible thing you can say to someone with an STD. The truth is unless you're very intimate with someone, the likelihood that you're going to catch an STD from them is extraordinarily low.

Swearing off a friendship because of an STD is simply cruel and utterly unnecessary. Think about how you'd feel if someone said this to you right after you'd disclosed something private, and likely painful, about your own life. If someone is telling you they have an STD, they need support, not judgment.

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  1. World Health Organization. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Condom Fact Sheet In Brief.