BACKGROUND: Partner notification for patients diagnosed with chlamydia is a strategy recommended to interrupt transmission of infection, and patients are commonly encouraged by health practitioners to contact their sexual partners themselves. Few studies, however, have ascertained the psychosocial impact of the chlamydia diagnosis and its effect on partner notification. METHODS: In-depth telephone interviews were conducted with 25 women and 15 men aged 18-55 years, diagnosed with chlamydia from clinics in Victoria, Australian Capital Territory and Queensland. Reactions to chlamydia diagnosis, as well as reasons for, and feelings about, telling their sexual partners about this infection were explored. RESULTS: Common reactions to initial diagnosis were surprise, shock and shame. The majority of both men and women saw partner notification as a social duty. Some cited concerns about their own health and the health of others as a reason for telling partners and ex-partners about the diagnosis. An infrequent reason offered for partner notification was to confront a partner to clarify fidelity. Reasons for not contacting a partner were typically fear of reaction or a lack of contact details. Although participants reported sexual partners exhibiting a variety of reactions when told of the diagnosis, results showed that for almost everyone, the experience of notifying their partner was better than they had expected. CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggested that partner notification by people diagnosed with chlamydia is achievable but that many require support from their health practitioner to achieve the skills and confidence necessary during this difficult time.