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How can I have Chlamydia when he doesn't?

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Ajay asks:

Me and my partner have been together for 5 months now. I have just recently been tested positive for an STI (chlamydia). My partner and I have never used condoms because I am on the pill. My partner went and got himself tested and his results came back negative. How is that possible?

Heather Corinna replies:

If you had a partner before him for oral, vaginal or anal sex, that could be who you got it from and your current partner managed not to contract it from you (now or yet), or contracted it so recently that he isn't testing positive yet. Or, your current partner's test wasn't accurate, or he said he got tested and truly did not. Any of those things are the biggest possibilities of what's up here.

A typical practice in healthcare with Chlamydia is this: when your doctor prescribes you a treatment, they ask for your partner's name and give you a prescription for him as well. In other words, if you know you have only had one partner when you contracted the infection, it is that partner who has the infection, and there's no need for testing. Regardless, since you have been with this partner while you've had the infection, he should be treated, so call into your healthcare provider to get him that treatment. And if you had not had a screening before this partner and had a partner or partners before him, then you'll want to phone those people -- or you can use an anonymous notification service like INspot -- to inform them about the STI so they can be treated.

Either way, it's time for the two of you to use safer sex practices for at least the next six months, including condom use.

The pill offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections, which are just as much of a risk -- and statistically, often a greater one in your age group -- as pregnancy is.

With any new partner, what a couple needs to do to effectively reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections is BOTH start with a new STI screening, BOTH use latex barriers for oral, vaginal and/or anal sex and both be monogamous. At the end of a six month period of all of these things, not just one, both partners get one more screening: if you're both negative, then it's much safer to stop using latex barriers if you want to, so long as you both remain monogamous. If someone only chooses to do one of these things, like only getting tested, but not using latex barriers, they're not likely to reduce their risks effectively.

This is a group of behaviours which has been found, over time and with evidence, by public health agencies to reduce your risks, and one you and your partner will need to get into the habit of in your life if you want to remain sexually active and do all you can to prevent infections.

Obviously, if you did not have any other partners before this or while you were with your current partner, and you and your partner both had negative screenings before becoming sexually active, you're also going to want to talk if you had the idea both of you were being monogamous. If your partner transmitted Chlamydia to you when he did really test negative for it before now -- it can't be transmitted other than sexually -- then you may need to deal with the fact that he may not have been not monogamous. I recognize that's not pleasant or easy, but it does happen frequently enough that people dishonor monogamy agreements, and when it happens, it is best addressed and dealt with, both in terms of your health and safer sex practices as well as for the health of your relationship.

I know that when you've gotten in the habit of going without safer sex it can seem daunting to start or like it's a drag. Honestly though, when you're in the habit of safer sex, it becomes as simple and easy a habit as brushing your teeth. It just is not that big of a deal. And when partners care about one another, it's not that big of a challenge to get started in truly easy practices which protect the health of both of you.

You both know know that this is an issue now, even if you didn't think it was before, so I'd just sit down and have a chat so that you can make a plan and a commitment together to be safer from here on out, with each other as well as with any other partners you may have in the future. If one or both of you needs more information to do that, I've got you covered.

Here are some links to help get you started:

written 06 May 2008 . updated 13 Dec 2013

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