#744: Informing someone you’re not talking to anymore about STI risks

Dear Captain & Army,

About a month ago, I finally broke things off with a long-term Darth Vader ex I’ll call Joe. We officially broke up last year, but spent this summer falling in love all over again, though we kept it completely secret. However, when Joe finally admitted to cheating on me with a very close friend while we were still together – something I had long suspected but never had confirmed, and which he had directly lied to me about many times – I knew it had to be over, once and for all. So, despite Joe’s protestations and pleas, I told him not to contact me ever again, and after a few days of mourning (and not reaching out, despite wanting to very badly) found the courage to block him in every way possible. Only in the last week was I finally starting to feel something more than the emotional mess that is equal parts angry, sad and nostalgic.

But then, just yesterday, I got a call from another ex, someone I briefly dated just a few months before Joe and I resumed our relationship. The ex told me they were recently tested for STIs, and came up positive for a common one. I immediately made an appointment for myself, and am now waiting for results to come back.

Of course, I know that if the test comes back positive that I will have to tell Joe. But I’m already worrying about having any contact with this person again, who I have finally removed completely from my life and who was a 100% toxic influence. I feel that news like this merits a phone call, but the thought of even hearing Joe’s voice again fills me with sadness, dread and, if I’m totally honest, excitement. I worry that I won’t be able to keep the conversation to simply the facts of the situation, and that if I open that doorway right now, I won’t be emotionally able to shut it again. My only friend who knows about our summer fling suggested writing an e-mail, and then keeping Joe’s blocked so he can’t respond. But I feel like that is somehow wrong, considering this is an issue of sexual health and safety.

What do you think, Captain? Should I call, or will an e-mail suffice? And either way, how do I make sure to stay to the script? Is there a good script for this?

Sincerely,
Possibly Positive

Dear Possibly Positive:

Would you believe that there are greeting cards for just this occasion? And that there are services where you can send this info anonymously (recommended!)? And that there’s a very sweet show on Netflix called “Scrotal Recall” about just this problem if you’d like to feel less alone about the whole thing?

You do not have to have a talk with “Joe” about this, LW, and you don’t owe him and the “close friend” he was sleeping with anything but the basic information to protect their health. If you choose not to use InSPOT, an email (DEFINITELY EMAIL OR POSTAL MAIL, NO PHONE OR MEETING UP) script might go like this:

“Dear Joe/Dear Friend:

One of my former sex partners tested positive for _______ STI, and given the timing you may have been exposed, too. Please get tested and inform your partners.”

Or:

“I recently tested positive for _______ STI, and I recommend that you get tested and inform recent sex partners as well.”

Informing them takes care of your ethical responsibilities here. I do think you should reach out to the friend as well (Do you honestly trust Joe to take care of someone else’s health in an ethical way?) Once you convey the info, you don’t need to have one iota more discussion or provide any more details.You can safely ignore/block any replies. You do not have to listen to Joe’s reactions or care about his feelings right now. Pesky microbes are not a referendum on you or on your past relationships, and reaching out with key health information is one good exception for violating a “no contact” policy.

I hope you get answers soon and that they alleviate your anxiety. When you climb back on the dating horse, this might help.

P.S. There’s always singing telegrams!

78 comments
  1. Lane said:

    I think the trouble with being a nice person is sometimes you feel the need to go the extra mile, even with people who will use that against you. Resist the urge. Captain has totally got you covered. He doesn’t deserve more than the basic notification. Take care of yourself.
    Also I must second the recommendation of that show. It is hilarious and wonderful.

    • eightysixed said:

      100% agree – I also think that Scrotal Recall (which is a show far cuter than the name implies!) also raises some good questions regarding why you’re calling someone vs. simply notifying them. STIs are often far more emotionally loaded than “hey, so sorry to tell you – but my kid has lice and given that you two were hanging out together on our couch yesterday, you should double check”. And what is intended to be an ethical and public health update can easily become a massive feelings unload.

      The other equally horrible side of this, is that even though people who are sexually active should get tested somewhat frequently – most don’t and are able to block it from their thoughts. So the LW could go through a huge feelings unload with exDarth just to end up with Darth not getting tested (or treated) anyways . Giving him the anonymous letter may actually end up appearing more official and have greater impact on him from a health standpoint rather than simply present him with a way to enter the LW’s life.

      • Kacienna said:

        Huh. In the school I went to as a kid, lice were a big deal. Not quite the way some STIs are, but there was definitely a sense of shame, and people sometimes wanted to avoid someone who had had lice even if they’d been treated. Up until now, I just kind of figured that was how it was for everyone, but of course there’s no good reason it should be.

  2. aaq said:

    Ok, there may be another option. Depending on what STI you may or may not have and where you live, a kindly person from the health department may be calling you up soon to ask about a whole variety of things. One of these will be past partners within a given window. While the only STI I dealt with was Hep B (arguably Hep C but not really – though if it is hepatitis you will definitely get a call if you are in the US), we frequently were asked to assist or just make contact with past partners. We did not ask why, though we were frequently told, and we did it.

    What those calls consisted of: “Hello, may I please speak to X? Hello X, we were recently informed that someone you may have had recent sexual contact with tested positive for Y. We recommend etc etc.” We didn’t disclose information about the person who tested positive because, among other things, HIPAA.

    If you don’t want to see if this will, you can call your local or state health department (or your local equivalent) to see if they will do what I just said: investigate cases of Y and inform past partners. It won’t be a bother to them, and it will honestly be one of the more pleasant calls they get all day.

    • Elle said:

      I hope this option is available to the LW, because it sounds like having a neutral, third party deliver the information to Joe while keeping LW’s name out of things might be best for all.

    • Sarah said:

      +1000
      The county Health Department will almost certainly happily do this for you, and your exes, both S.O. and Friend, will probably take it far more seriously than they will if you call, because the focus will be on OMG I have an STI not, OMG Possibly has an STI and may have given it to me! with all the attendent recriminations.

      It’s also possible your ex gave it to you and you gave it to your other ex, BTW. You don’t know, so don’t take responsiblity for this. Let the Health Department handle it.

    • eselle28 said:

      Oh, that sounds like a great idea! It removes the need for the LW to deal with her ex personally, makes it more difficult for the ex to retaliate against her by spreading gossip, and is far more likely to be taken seriously than an anonymous STD-gram.

    • Lillavännen said:

      I’m from Sweden and here they ALWAYS handle the contact with sexual partners. When you test positive for a STI you get an interview with a health counselour employed by the clinic who goes through your sexual history for the last 6 months – 2 years (depending on infection). And then it’s all in their hands – you get a chance to tell them yourself, but they always send out letters to the partners telling them that someone they have slept with have tested positive for this or that STI and that they have to test themselves.
      (In Sweden it’s mandatory by law to get an chlamydia test if someone you have slept with are tested positive… A friend of a friend refused to get tested after TWO of his ex girlfriends tested positive for chlamydia and it ended with him being escorted by police to the clinic to take the test and get treatment since he kept on having unprotected sex even after he was informed of the chances of him having chlamydia).

      I hope they have that opportunity too! I think it’s real clever of the clinics to handle the contact with exes themselves, because they need to know and thinking about the social stigma of sexual disease they don’t need to know which one of their ex sex partners who have it.

      • emdashing said:

        Just wanted to say that whoa, this is awesome. Further confirmation that Scandinavia is where it’s at in terms of health care.

      • Mortality said:

        I’m in Sweden too, and even though I didn’t have to notify my past partners when I tested positive for chlamydia (due to a Darth Vader ex too) I did. By text message. I wrote one message and then just copied and pasted it into a separate message for each of them. Luckily none of them tested positive, which was nice. (Darth Vader ex tried to claim I’d been the one to infected him, but that’s a totally separate story. Said ex told me he used condoms with everyone else, but later found out from an other girl he’d been seeing that the only time they had used condoms was when they knew she was chlamydia positive -.-)

    • Light37 said:

      This seems like the safest and best option, and leaves you out entirely. I wouldn’t want Darth!Joe to know it’s me they’re talking about, because Darths don’t generally react to things in a kind and loving manner. I don’t want him showing up at my door raging at me and calling me names.

  3. notemily said:

    The fact that InSpot exists makes me happy. The internet: solving awkward social interaction problems since the 90s.

    I had a Darth Vader ex once who emailed me telling me he had an STI and I should get checked. I didn’t test positive for anything, and sometimes I wonder if this was just his Darth-ness, trying to fuck with my head one last time.

    • Someone did that to me once. Even got a friend to call me posing as a doctor to tell me I may have been exposed to HIV. I was sixteen and freaked the fuck out (and was utterly humiliated when I had to repeat loudly to a hospital receptionist in front of a queue of people why I was there). People can be nasty. I’m sorry this happened to you, whether your ex was lying or not.

    • eightysixed said:

      In the spirit of honesty – in my less gracious moments of being dumped, I’ve honestly thought about how texting/calling an ex and saying “hey, you should probably get texted for X bacterial STI” in a moment of anger. So while I’ve never done it and definitely don’t condone the Darth Vader exes using stuff like that to reach out……I understand having the thought of “this would totally ruin their day”.

    • ratminx said:

      Erf. I had an ex find out I’d been with someone else after he and I had broken up, and he proceeded to tell everyone he knew that I’d given him HIV. I got tested, sent him the results… didn’t matter. He even started bragging about giving it to other people, which was further evidence of his insanity. But when you don’t realize you’re just lowering your own chances of having sex by being that person… yeah. *SMH*

      • azurelunatic said:

        Intentionally giving HIV to someone is a serious crime in some areas: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_transmission_of_HIV
        That is really, really a stunning statement about his outlook on life, and an entire parade’s worth of red flags.

        • ratminx said:

          Yes, yes, and hells yes; ALL THE FLAGS on that one. It blew my mind he’d think it was funny to 1) lie about having it, and 2) then pretend to be giving it to the people he slept with. But then, that’s usually been my thing: sticking with someone long enough to try and figure out what the heck is wrong with them, instead of running in the other direction, sans diagnosis. 🙂

      • thepaintedlady said:

        I knew a guy who told everyone that (insert name of obscure contagious ailment no one has heard of) was an STI he had caught from his ex. Turns out it was some sort of fungal skin thing that you can get from shaking hands with someone. But by the time his ex caught wind of what he was saying, the damage was done and a lot of people in our smallish circle had already decided she was bad news.

  4. Fishmongers' daughters said:

    I got That Phone Call once. I was out on a romantic evening walk around my city with a new boyfriend at the time. I did not like That Phone Call. I mean, I didn’t mind, because there’s not really a great way to convey that info, but it was awkward to say the least, and given the timing, sort of invasive in a way he couldn’t have anticipated. I think email is kinder. It means that the person doesn’t have to process their reaction to this news immediately while you’re looking at them or waiting on the other end of a phone line.

    Anyway, I think it’s really honest and brave of you to admit that part of why you don’t want to call him is you know you’d be excited to talk to him again. Listen to that dread, is my advice! If you know this dude is toxic AND that he is very, very tempting, you’ve already done the hardest part by closing those doors. You’ve been ignoring the temptation to re-open them, dealing with it, etc. Keep doing that! It’s working! It will keep getting easier from here. 🙂

    • Fishmongers' daughters said:

      OH, and also – the guy making That Phone Call hadn’t even been tested yet. He was just suspicious. He had a sore near his penis and panicked. Turns out there was nothing to worry about. So you’re already doing a good job not giving into temptation, just by resisting any urge you may have had to immediately call him before you even got your results. You win thoughtful, considerate ex points for that one. 😛

    • I think email is kinder. It means that the person doesn’t have to process their reaction to this news immediately while you’re looking at them or waiting on the other end of a phone line.

      Exactly. I have not gotten an STD phone call, but I did have a recruiter call and email me several times before we got to speak – only to have her tell me that they did not want to bring me in for an interview.

      Here’s my new rule:

      1. Phone call for good news
      2. Email/registered postal mail for bad news.

    • thepaintedlady said:

      That’s a really great point. I would much, MUCH prefer to have to hear news like this over email than over the phone. Even if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t dread phone calls of any kind, doesn’t screen all phone calls, and the second a call appears to be some kind of bad news/implication of your inability to be a functional adult, you don’t ever delete it promptly and pretend it never happened as long as possible – pretty much my polar opposite, in other words – that news is still not going to improve your day. There are no good ways to end a relationship to the satisfaction of the other party, and I don’t know that there’s a good or even less bad way to tell someone they need to be tested for an STI. So do what feels safest and don’t let anyone tell you that there’s a way to break the news In a way that makes it more palatable.

    • Muffin said:

      Yup, something like this happened to me, too — a Darth Vader ex rang me up to say she was getting tested for HIV, so I better get tested, too. It wasn’t a pleasant phone call. So I second 2 recommendations, LW:

      1. Wait until you have your results and then do what you have to do.
      2. Don’t phone him up.

      All the Captain’s recommendations for non-phone options are great, as is the option mentioned above of asking the local health people to contact your ex for you. Listen to that voice that says not to be in touch with him! You can do it! We believe in you!

    • Kat said:

      I’m with all the people above saying “don’t call!”. My family has a bad history in terms of health and my mom once called my office phone without thinking about a) me not liking phone calls anyway and a) calls usually being the way to deliver bad news. Cue me going “Who’s in hospital this time? Do I need to talk to my boss about an extended leave of absence or is two days off enough?” Turns out, she wanted to use my old TV.
      So yeah, email is the way to go.

  5. Charlene said:

    Your doctor should be able to tell you if your public health department does notifications. If not you may be able to get help from a local sexual health centre (e.g. Klinic in Winnipeg). In extremist you could even create a burner e-mail address and notify him that way.

    • Charlene said:

      In extremis, autocorrect.

  6. EQY said:

    I’m a midwife in a hospital-based practice and it is frequently my job to inform folks that they have tested positive for STIs, all of which in my state are considered Reportable (meaning that in addition to informing my patient, I am required by state law to inform the local health dept as well).

    Your health care provider should be able to assist you in this, either by informing Joe directly on your behalf, or by informing the people at the health dept (whose job this is) that you have a suspected contact whom you are unable to reach. The health dept is not going to ask WHY you’re not able to reach him. They will just put their epidemiological skills to the task, and do the job for you.

  7. Shakti said:

    Everyone’s suggestions for informing Joe anonymously are excellent. There’s no need to reveal yourself and informing Joe and close friend(still?) anonymously is enough. You’re only doing this for public health reasons anyways.

  8. ashbet said:

    I was going to suggest the Health Department, too — but inSPOT allows you to notify in an extra-anonymous way (so that it’s not your LOCAL Health Department calling), so that might be the safest option to avoid Darth Vader Ex getting back in touch.

    The situation I encountered wasn’t the same (in my teens, I had a short-term partner with whom I parted on a friendly and positive basis, but we weren’t in touch. They actually tracked down a mutual friend to get my number, to inform me that they had tested positive for _x_, that they thought they had acquired _x_ from the partner after me, but that I should get tested, and that they were very sorry to have to intrude on my life without having been given my contact info.

    While I was, of course, distressed by the possibility (we used safer sex precautions, but you can get unlucky), I thought it was incredibly kind and gracious of him to go to an effort to track me down and let me know that I might be at risk.

    As it turned out, we stayed friends for decades, and while we’re currently out of touch again (due to multiple moves on both our parts), I know that we’d be on excellent terms on a forward-going basis, if we had a chance to run into each other again.

    Thankfully, I had NOT been infected — but I got a serious lesson in how classy people do this stuff, and it has stuck with me for all these years.

    People, disclosing an STI or a possible STI exposure doesn’t have to mean rejection or repulsion, and sharing sexual health and safety info is what decent, kind human beings do.

    I wish there was less social stigma against STIs, because situations like this would be less fraught — but disclosure is very much Doing The Right Thing.

    LW, I’m glad you’re even willing to Do The Right Thing by this cretinous ex and the woman he cheated on you with . . . because you’re saving future innocent partners of theirs from dealing with potentially-lifetime consequences.

    You rule, LW. And best of luck in getting this taken care of without any further Ex-contact!

  9. Anyanka said:

    LW, I just want to applaud you for wanting and trying to do the right thing. It’s not easy to do something ethical and difficult, that can feel awful, especially with people who you never want to contact again. I do think that the anonymous ways to inform him & the friend he was sleeping with are perfectly fine. I also think that it’s a good idea to keep it as brief and businesslike as possible–you’re not looking for ‘closure’ or feelings!bomb or ‘reconciliation’, you’re looking to do a simple, ethical thing, and that’s that.

  10. Lily said:

    I once thought that I owed my darth vader ex a phone call. It wasn’t about a STI, but about the death of my sibling who he liked (not that my sibling liked darth vader after they learned what he had done to their sister).
    Yep, of course he used this moment (*ME TELLING ABOUT THE DEATH OF SOMEONE CLOSE TO ME!*) every manipulator tactic to try to weasel his way back into my life. So, LW, stay safe. Maybe some other person (friend of you that you trust, etc) can deliver the news to him?

    • Annafel said:

      OMG. I’m so sorry that you lost your sibling and also that your Darth Vader ex was so awful! That time and also just in general 😦

      My Darth Vader ex did a similar thing – an older relative of mine, that he’d known and liked, died shortly after I broke up with him, and I also felt I owed him a phone call. Ugh. He acted like it was a catching up call and proceeded to tell me all about his new girlfriend. Oh, hadn’t I already told you about her? No, you jackass, this is the first time we’ve spoken since we broke up. Which you very well know.

      It was upsetting, though I don’t think the mindfuck was on the same level that your ex went for. Just taking every opportunity to make everything about himself. Anyway it just struck me that your ex had seen your sibling’s death as an opportunity too. What an awful person. So I wanted to tell you that … there are more similarly awful people out there, I guess? Or that we aren’t alone. I like that idea better.

      *jedi hugs* if you would like them.

      • The Awe Ritual said:

        Added Jedi hugs— if unwanted, pass them on to the universe.

        I was in a similar situation— Darth and my former co-worker, of whom we were both very fond, passed away, and his son needed money to bury him. I sent the Gofundme link on, with the text of “Sorry for your loss. Further contact is not needed.” Three weeks later, it got back to me how he told his wife, family, and friends that I was stalking and propositioning him— a strange turn of phrase for “not answering the ‘so, how you been? Single? My wife’s out of town this week,” message I’d gotten in return.

        NOT okay, Ani. You keep your lying bees far away from me.

        • CJ said:

          I did something similar after my husband died, in that I googled contact information for the people in his past (e.g., old friends, former spouse) whom I believed would want to know about his passing. Dealing with his (somewhat estranged) family was hardest. They treated me very poorly and essentially told me in so many words to Go Away. There has been no contact since.

          Fast forward a few years. While packing to move house, I discovered a large box of my late husband’s family memorabilia going back several generations. Lots of photos of his deceased parents and grandparents. Original artwork by his deceased mother. His deceased father’s military medals from when he served in the navy during World War II.

          My late husband’s family is a very close one that values its links to previous generations. I know they would treasure these items if they knew of their existence.

          I don’t know what to do. My friends tell me to just toss the box and not look back. Due to the nature of the items, part of me wants to take the high road and contact his family to offer them the opportunity to receive the box if they will pay shipping costs. But that means I need to reach out to people who have treated me so awful. And potentially open the door to hassle if they quibble over shipping costs, carrier choice, etc.

          I still haven’t decided what to do, and the box is taking up valuable space. What would you do under similar circumstances? Toss? Contact? Other?

          • Hm. Is his former spouse nice, and does s/he have a better relationship with his family of origin than you do? If so, maybe s/he would be willing to help you out.

          • CJ said:

            She is nice. But she hasn’t maintained any sort of connection with his family since the divorce in 1982. She’s been married twice since then, and has a whole new family.

          • golden peanut said:

            If I had the money, I cover the cost of shipping myself. Future generations of his family who are not the ones who were awful to you will probably appreciate it.

          • Dr Sarah said:

            This may very well cost more money than it’s worth, but I’d be sort of tempted to get a lawyer to write an impersonal letter on your behalf, same as would be done if they were dealing with your estate after you’d died and were informing potential beneficiaries. (I’m not suggesting you pretend to have died! Just that it gets them informed without you having any direct contact with them.)

            But that’s an expensive solution, so probably not.

          • Elf Krystal said:

            Hi CJ! Please send the box. There may be some poorly behaved asses in the family, but what you have there is a real treasure to a future generation, if not the current one. I am the family genealogist, and those pictures, letters, medals are really something special that one of the children or even some collateral relative would love to have. If you choose to take the high road, good karma to you from the future. Many Jedi hugs if you like, pass them on if you don’t. Contact and send. or just send. Bless you from a genealogist.

          • The Awe Ritual said:

            I am so sorry that happened to you! Sounds like the abyss of suckitude.

            If the thought of reaching out to the least-sucky-in-terms-of-response family member stresses you out, maybe have a friend do so on your behalf? Just a letter with contact, box contents, and “I represent CJ, esq, in this matter. Please e-mail isetthisemailupforspam at gmail dot com by x date if I you would like this box shipped to you postage due.” (The less about the emotional baggage here, the better.) Then one way or the other, you can dust your hands of the matter, and it will feel SO MUCH better.

          • If I could afford it, I’d go with the lawyer.

            Otherwise, again if I could afford it, I’d ship the belongings to whatever address I still had for Darth’s family.

            Otherwise? I’d donate.

          • R.J. said:

            Nesting is out so I can’t reply to Msmorleystea, who commented “donate”- I agree that donation could be a really good road to take, if you decide not to contact. (Please, if you have the spoons to store this stuff and find places to donate, don’t toss! It’s always too bad when artifacts like that are lost.)
            Speaking of the donating, I was thinking about this because we get donations at the museum (Naval history!) where I work that we can’t use, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find stuff a good home. If you know what ship he served on, you could contact a veterans group and offer the medals to them- they might have the energy and resources to really treasure them and give them the home that such a thing deserves. That can be as easy as a google search and an email to whoever runs the group. Alternately, if there’s a history group in your area (the Civil War history groups call themselves Roundtables, WW2 groups might do similar?) they’ll undoubtedly have collectors who are prepared to take proper care of medals etc.
            I bet there’s someone here who has similar ideas for the art.

    • Oh dear! That was awfu of Darth Ex! So sorry you went through both the loss of your sib, and the insult of Darth’s behavior

  11. “My only friend who knows about our summer fling suggested writing an e-mail, and then keeping Joe’s blocked so he can’t respond. But I feel like that is somehow wrong, considering this is an issue of sexual health and safety.”

    Why?

    You feel like basic human decency calls for this, but I’m not sure that’s true and it’s certainly not true for someone who didn’t treat you well and who contacting will cause you discomfort. What’s the upside of an interactive conversation? Is this a person you owe comfort or support to? Is there a legitimate, non-selfish reason this person would want you to be a person proving them support?

    An at-a-distance notification so they can take necessary care of themselves covers all the obligations and, as others say, has upsides as well by being something they can get at the opportune time. I think the only obligation you have it to use a medium you can reasonably be sure isn’t read by others. No postcards, no email to a work account.

    • msethyl said:

      Agreed with this. It sounds like the LW isn’t being totally truthful with why they want to contact Vader. I think “tempting” and “exciting” factor much higher on the scale than “decency,” if they’re being honest. I know I’ve been there and I’ve made these same exact excuses :-/

      • rydra_wong said:

        Well, the LW is honest about feeling some “excitement” at the prospect of hearing Vader’s voice again.

        But they perhaps haven’t made the connection between that and the possibility that there’s some rationalizing going on, looking for reasons why this should be a phone call rather than an e-mail, or why they should un-block Vader’s e-mail because it’s “an issue of sexual health and safety”.

        That’s the way it goes with rationalizations — they come disguised as rationality. And it’s a human and understandable thing and we all do it.

        But being conscious of it enables you to (try to) stomp it as needed.

        LW is very clear that Joe is a Darth Vader for them, and that if they “open the doorway” to continued contact they won’t feel able to close it again. Those are extremely good reasons to not open that doorway, and to use a one-way option to inform Joe of anything he needs to be informed of.

        (And on top of that, LW can look at all the comments from people suggesting that e-mail or another text-based option would be a preferable way to get news like this anyway.)

        • TO_Ont said:

          It can work the other way around, too.

          If you really dread doing something, and you know you’re not feeling objective about it, you can find it hard to see clearly through that dread you feel telling you not to do it, to see that it actually is, in fact, objectively better not to do it and NOT in this case something you should feel guilty about.

          Like, if I want SO much to do something (inform this person in a way that avoids my ever having to speak to them), then it must be wrong, right? No, not always.

          • rydra_wong said:

            Ooh, very good point.

    • eselle28 said:

      Yeah, I don’t see why a back and forth conversation about this is required by basic human decency. Either Joe is going to want some emotional support from the LW about this or to lash out at her or whatnot, all of which is harmful to her given their history, or he’ll want to hang up and talk to someone who’s currently in his life about the issue. I don’t think the LW owes him handholding through this experience, just basic information.

  12. boutet said:

    Another reason to go for the anonymous notification is that he can’t use the information against you. Sti’s have a lot of bullshit negative societal stuff and you don’t need to hand your ex a tool to potentially harm you with. Some ex’s would be only too happy to start telling everyone that you have a (probably exaggerated for effect) sti, or do a lot of slut-shaming about you in relation to the sti.

    Sti’s and having a sexual history/present are nothing to be ashamed of and not a morality issue but that won’t stop assholes from trying to make you ashamed or mess up your life.

    • Light37 said:

      Good point. DarthEx might decide to take this information and call you a whore to everyone you know, or claim you were cheating and got STI from the affair partner, or a hundred other nasty things that you don’t need in your life.

  13. Manattee said:

    Possible other reason for informing him anonymously is if you want this information to stay private. I once told a close friend (now ex friend) that I developed symptoms and tested positive for an STI shortly after we’d slept together. She blabbed it round several people in our social circle.

  14. ratminx said:

    LW, I also commend you for your desire to be honest, and to provide information to people in order for them to take care of themselves and future partners, should it be necessary. I’ve had what I believe is the STI to which you’re referring for over 15 years, and am adamant about sharing that information with potential partners beforehand. I also use it as a gauge as to whether or not I trust someone enough with the information; if I don’t, then no naked time. It’s still a challenge for me to have “the talk” sometimes, but it always goes a whole lot better than I think it will, FWIW.

    Since you’ve removed this person from your life as best you can, likely for very good reason, then I would also agree that you find a way to inform necessary parties in a way that won’t expose you further to him or any attempts at reconciliation. I say this as someone who, just a few months ago, finally extricated myself from a year-long interaction with someone who has since revealed himself to be a liar, manipulator, and, unfortunately, a cheater. It was the “other woman” who told me about their interactions; I thanked her for the information, confronted him, and eventually came to see how the entire year was one big lie. *sigh*

    And that presented me with a conundrum. I take daily medication to suppress outbreaks, and to my knowledge, have never infected any of my past partners. However, the woman my ex was sleeping with (likely without protection) may have been exposed to something, and I’ve been wondering if it’s on ME to tell her. I don’t necessarily trust her with the information, but also feel just as strongly that she should have been given that choice before hooking up with him. I just don’t know.

    • TurquoiseDragon said:

      While I don’t think you are responsible for her, I applaud you wanting to make sure she knows the risk. Perhaps letting her know though one of the anonymous options suggested in this thread that she might have been exposed to X and should get tested?

      • ratminx said:

        Indeed. I am sure she’d know exactly where it was coming from, even all these months later, but I suppose the point would be to get the information to her one way or the other, and if it didn’t come directly from me, there’s no way to trace it back if she were ever inclined to not take the high road with the info.

  15. Dear LW:

    Please listen to the Captain and don’t call or see Joe.

    Anonymous sounds best to me.

    And LW? You rock

    • The Awe Ritual said:

      Truth.

  16. tawg said:

    Hey LW, just wanted to say that it’s really great that you’re identifying temptation and resisting it at this time. It can be so easy to talk yourself into doing something ‘for the right reasons’, and you being able to hold off until you know your own prognosis rather than reaching out to the Death Star is a really good move.

  17. azurelunatic said:

    The standard that “well X is important, it should be communicated in an appropriately formal/personal way” is for relationships that are functional.

    This is not a functional relationship.

    The needs here are:
    Definite delivery – you don’t want him to miss it somehow.
    Non-interactivity – no good will come of letting him have a word back.
    Privacy – this is not a job for skywriting

    I like the suggestions of registered mail and having the professionals call him.

    • slythwolf said:

      Thank you for putting this so succinctly.

  18. whisperingsunbeams said:

    I could be wrong but I think the question being asked here is 10% how do I tell my ex about an STI and 80% how do I stop going round in circles with this ex.

    Lots of luck LW. I hope everything works out and you manage to move on from your darth.

    • machetko said:

      I agree and very well put, but what do you think the other 10% is?

      • BB said:

        I think the 10% is how do I “do this right” because liars always make you feel like you do everything wrong.
        IMHO, she needs to disregard that little bit of herself that cares for his opinion of how to do anything- and do what is best for herself.
        Email or having someone in the doctor’s office contact him would be safer and easier.

  19. greenmorgan said:

    I’m baffled! Where I come from, the health department sends out anonymous letters to those you have listed as recent partners. The letters have information about who to contact for a test and also look just like any other letter on the outside.

    What kind of country trusts that everyone calls their recent partners about this? It has to be the most awkward conversation ever. And also a great way to make sure STI spreads. I can’t help to wonder if this is part of a shaming tactic, to promote abstinence.

    Do not call! Find some way to get the hospital to handle this for you. This is an issue about peoples health and should concern them.

    • ratminx said:

      I’m not sure if it comes from a place of shaming in order to promote abstinence (which never works and instead results in people continuing to have sex but just not telling their partners about the STI), or if it comes from a place of ‘MURICA freedom keep the government outta mah business, or if it just started as shortsightedness and the status quo has been maintained… that’s a really good question! Now I want to know how these things are handled in other countries, just in general. I also love the idea of keeping it a medical health issue, as opposed to a moral “failing” issue; getting our country to the point where we don’t judge/shame for these things would be huge.

    • Vicki said:

      There’s another reason the health department might not be sending out letters: in order to do that, they need to know the names and contact information of recent partners, which in turn would require them to have contact information for the people being tested. If the testing was done anonymously, there’s a record somewhere, but it says something like “on $date, we tested sample number abcefgk, and it tested positive for thus-and-such disease.” That could be used for statistics (what percentage of tests in 2015 were positive?) but not for contacting someone’s recent partners.

      Even if you have the name and contact information for the person being tested, that doesn’t guarantee either a complete or an accurate list of their recent partners. People may not want to tell even the most sympathetic health department staffer about a one-night stand with someone they met in a bar—or they might say “it might have been this guy I met at Joe’s Bar and Grill a few weeks ago” to avoid mentioning their brother-in-law.

    • slythwolf said:

      If the LW is in the US, in order for a medical provider to release that kind of information to someone the LW would have to sign a form specifically granting them the right to talk to that person about their medical information. Every kind of form of that nature I’ve seen has been blanket permission; not sure if a procedure exists to say “you can talk to this person one time about this one thing”. Theoretically someone could sign off on this stuff so the hospital could tell their ex about an STI, but they’d have to then turn around and revoke the permission afterwards, and in the meantime the ex could legally get all kinds of personal information out of the hospital staff. Sounds like a bad idea to me.

      • If I recall correctly, the forms I’ve signed to pass on medical records have been specific for which records the doctor is requesting or at least have a field to fill that in.

        But they can talk to a person without violating HIPAA laws by not disclosing the information for the person who they tested – “Our records indicate a recent sexual partner of yours has tested positive for X. We recommend you get tested.”

  20. Anonymous said:

    So…several years ago, I was diagnosed with an STI, and the news sent me into a year long major depressive episode (the worst of my life so far). I didn’t tell any of my past partners and I don’t regret it because at that time, I had to prioritize my own mental wellbeing. Similarly, if your ex is so bad you’re referring to him as “Darth Vader”, I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world for you not to tell him. Putting on your own oxygen mask first, and all that.

  21. slythwolf said:

    Is it cool if I piggyback on this question real quick? I’ve never been tested for STIs, I probably should before I resume the physical aspects of dating. It’s marginally possible my ex-husband (who was a virgin when we met) might have cheated on me (although I doubt it; he honestly didn’t have the social skills) and given me something, or the one person I slept with before him (who had had other partners) might have given me something and no symptoms have shown up in 12 and a half years. (I don’t claim to have a lot of medical knowledge about these matters; I went to US public schools.)

    So I will, in fact, get tested before I start sleeping with anyone again. If I come up positive for anything, I have to inform my previous partners, right, that’s the protocol. Only I don’t actually know how to contact either of them. I can’t remember which of the Carolinas the first partner lived in, and I’ve been divorced for almost 3 years and the last I knew my ex-husband might be living in California. Maybe. I’m in Michigan.

    What if I can’t actually tell these people? How much of an obligation do I have to try to find them? Is a quick Google sufficient? Do I have to hire a private eye? Something in between?

    • thneedle said:

      I think your answer is here, too. Let the professionals handle this one. They will ask for contact info, you will give them what you have, they will take it from there. You’re far from the only person in this situation. People move a lot.

      • slythwolf said:

        I have first and last names, I guess…

    • Cor! said:

      Honestly, I think after a certain amount of time the whole thing becomes kinda null. Don’t get me wrong, you’re heart’s in the right place, but if literally years have passed since you last had contact with these people and had sex with any of them, the window of risk seems kinda narrow to be bothering anyone about it, unless it’s something as serious as HIV, which can take quite some time to show symptoms.
      I say, chill, take your tests (I hope and highly suspect it’s nothing), see what comes out. If during your entire marriage neither you nor your husband had any worrying symptoms, then your previous partner probably didn’t have anything your immune systems couldn’t handle. And if your ex happened to cheat on you, then he would’ve been the one to put you at risk.
      Again, after so long, whether either one of your previous partners have slept with tons of other people or no one at all, time has taken it’s course. A think you can brake protocol on this occasion given your situation. And now you can restart your sex life on a new page of full disclosure and honesty. Best of luck.

      • slythwolf said:

        This was what I was kind of hoping? I mean, I highly doubt anything is going to show up, but anxiety brain weasels are going to mess with me about “what if you DO have something! WHAT THEN!” until I actually get a battery of negative tests back.

  22. Jack V said:

    I think it’s important to remember about politeness, some forms of politeness, apply to everyone, but many only make sense when the person you’re talking to is participating too. Like, if I get a spam phonecall or a spam email, I don’t curse at them, because they’re probably stuck in a job they hate, and even if they’re malicious, they’re still human. But I don’t go through the dance of making small-talk and thanking them for their time, designed to avoiding hurting their feelings, because it’s too late for that, they know they’re taking advantage of my willingness to answer the phone to try and manipulate me into something, and if I _try_ to be polite, 99% of the time they’ll never take no for an answer, they’ll just keep pushing and pushing. And that’s something people often take advantage of, accidentally or deliberately.

    The same applies many times more so to someone who is continually harmful to you personally. If for some reason it NEEDED to be a phone call, I’d suggest having a friend their to support you through it and get you to hang up when he starts taking advantage. But you can’t be the person to hold his hand through this — maybe you would if you could, but you can’t because almost certainly he will use the opportunity to take advantage. You do have an obligation to let him know if you can, and it’s good that you’re following through on that. But email or a letter from the clinic is plenty. You can’t have a polite conversation whether you want to or not because HE refuses to be polite, just because he’s more insidious, doesn’t mean he’s being polite, he’s NOT.

    After all, lots of people will have even more reason to NOT contact someone they need to contact for health reasons, people who are even more dangerous to them (or that they are dangerous to) that Joe. Or maybe you just deleted his phone number can’t find it again. That means, there needs to be a way to do this sort of thing without phone, by email or letter from clinic. And you have every reason to take advantage of that. The benefit to Joe of receiving the message by phone is comparatively small, maybe non-existent. And the damage to you is very large. Send a message somehow, then forget him again — well done for cutting him out in the first place!

  23. I agree with the Captain, do inform the friend with whom Joe cheated on you. Darth Vader Exes cannot be trusted, and I wouldn’t even count on him being open about sex partners if he gets an official call by the health department.

  24. Alice_Fraggle said:

    I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments yet, but I’d like to add that I wouldn’t tell him a damn thing until your test results come back – unless there’s a chance whatever you are being tested for can be dormant and not show up on tests. I see no reason to contact Joe until you’re sure there is a reason to.

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