Dear Goddess of Java,
I was recently tested for all STDs and found, to my delight, that I have no STDs. I felt relief and actually thought about calling someone to tell them… but then I thought, whom should I call? I called my primary partner, of course, because it was mostly for him that I was tested. But what about my casual sex partners from the past few months? Is telling someone that you have no STDs similar to telling them that you do have STDs?
What does it mean that I am STD-free? I already practice safer sex. Is this a condition that I should work harder to retain? If I meet a prospective partner who does the responsible thing and discloses possible exposure or a positive status, am I required due to my previous relationships to take greater steps to preserve my STD-free state if I want to have sex with previous partners? If I do have sex with the STD-positive partner, should I inform my other partners before or after? Do they get a say in whether or not I have sex, or what safer-sex practices I get to use? I’m just not sure what the most responsible and respectful thing to do is in this situation.
First off, congrats on the clean bill of health. That’s good. I hope you’re using good safer sex practices or that you’ll continue to do so.
As far as whom to tell? If you want to announce the good news you can but I wouldn’t think it necessary unless you’re asked. Of course one must contact anyone who has been exposed if you test positive for an STD and have them get tested, even if no-one is asking you. That’s information that a responsible person volunteers at the first available opportunity. I expect you knew that.
I don’t know what safer sex measures you’re taking, so it’s hard to make a specific recommendation. I’ve recommended Polyamory, STDs and Safer Sex before and I’ll do it again. It outlines some excellent guidelines and gives some great information that’s neither scare tactics nor foolish.
Now, if you have a prospective who has been exposed to an STD (and good that honest disclosure is going on, by the way), you have lots and lots of options. The first and the most important option? Ask your other partners what they would like to have happen in terms of risk management. It’s not that you’re required to do so by the Official Polyamory Handbook or anything, but you don’t want to be a jerk. Do I personally listen to partners’ input on what they’re comfortable with in terms of safer sex practices? My word yes. I love my partners. I want them to feel comfortable. I care about their health!1 While I won’t tolerate being dictated to, my partner selection is such that I’m involved with people whose judgment I consider good, which means that yeah, I’m going to consider input carefully.
I strongly encourage you to discuss risk tolerance with your partners. Asking partners for their input, how they feel and what they want before making your decision is the most loving and respectful thing you can do. What random strangers with a rep for being hyper-practical think about risk assessment might be okay in terms of a reality check, but it’s your partners who are (or should be selected carefully enough that they can be) your trusted advisors. Get everyone to do some research and then get together and talk about it.
As a side note? I dislike the OHHH, Leprosy-style reaction a positive on an STD test. I think it discourages frank discussion and intelligent risk management. People don’t like to reveal information if they’re going to be shamed for it, so I think the shaming nonsense is a terrible idea. Have a sense of proportion about it!
1 You know, polyamory. Love? It’s a factor, after all.