If you have just found out that you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), you are not alone. STIs are common infections and anyone who is sexually active may get an STI at some point in their life.
After finding out that you have an STI, it is common to have questions. This website has a lot of information about STIs and sexual health. You can also ask us if you can’t find the answer you are looking for.
The internet has a lot of good information that can help you learn more about STIs. But, not all of the information may be helpful. The internet can give a lot of conflicting information and worst-case scenarios. If you are getting upset or more anxious about your condition by surfing the internet, talk to a health care provider to get reliable answers.
Other STIs are not curable but their symptoms can be treated. STIs caused by viruses will stay in the body, and cannot be cleared with medication. Medications are used to manage symptoms and help to reduce the amount of virus in the body.
STIs that you live with are ones that are caused by viruses that stay in your body. There is no cure for HIV, herpes simplex or genital warts/HPV, but medications and other treatments can help with symptoms and keep you healthy.
You may have questions about your sex life, how to talk to partners, and how to manage symptoms. You may also have feelings or strong reactions. Some common feelings that people have are fear, anger, sadness and uncertainty. It can help to find emotional support and resources to learn more about what this STI means for you.
Some things to remember
– STIs are common. Each year, many people are diagnosed with an STI. In fact, more STIs are reported to public health authorities than any other type of infection. So you’re not alone. It’s very likely that some of your friends have had an STI in the past, and you didn’t even know it.
– STIs are treatable. Many infections such as gonorrhea and chlamydia are curable, often with a single dose of antibiotics. Others, such as herpes, may be chronic infections but are treatable and manageable with medication. Talk to your health care provider about the best medical treatment strategy for your particular infection – knowledge is power, so get educated about your disease.
– Having an STI doesn’t mean your life is over. In fact, it doesn’t even mean your sex life is over. Sometimes an STI is a wake-up call, encouraging you to take control of your sexual health, and preparing you for future sexual encounters. Consistent and correct condom use is the best way to prevent STIs – take this to heart, and resolve to practice safer sex in the future.
– There is a lot more to you as a person than your STI.
– You can have relationships and sex. By practicing safer sex, you can protect yourself & reduce the chance of passing STIs to your partner(s).
– There are medications that can help to reduce symptoms. Find a health care provider that knows about your STI and get health care as needed.
As a first step for those newly diagnosed or trying to get back into care in the St. Louis Region, call the Linkage to Care Referral Line at (314) 872-1431. A Linkage to Care Coordinator will help enroll in case management to support access to HIV medical care; provide referrals for medical care and support services; and coordinate access to payment for medical care and medications. The Linkage to Care Coordinator is also a great resource for HIV and health education.
Regarding sexual relationships it is important to protect yourself from other STDs and reduce the risk of transmission to others. This can be done by:
• Practicing safer sex by using latex or polyurethane condoms
• Taking antiretroviral therapy
• Not sharing needles
STIs can be passed to a partner even if you are not showing signs or symptoms. Some STIs, such as herpes simplex and genital warts, are passed by skin-to-skin contact. Condoms provide good protection, but don’t cover all areas. Barriers such as dental dams or female condoms provide more coverage over the genital and anal areas and may provide better protection. Learn more about how to practice safer sex.
Telling your partner that you have an STD can be difficult. In some cases, your partner may have been the source of your infection, and you may be angry and upset to talk to him/her about this. In other cases, you may have a chronic infection (such as herpes) and you may be worried about how disclosing this information may affect your relationship.
There is no easy way to have this conversation, but experts suggest breaking the talk down into manageable sections:
1) Reflect: Think about how you feel and what you want to say, and how you want to say it.
2) Practice: Write out some talking points, and practice in a mirror if necessary. You want to be calm and collected, not outraged and frantic.
3) Choose your setting: Pick a comfortable, private space when you are both present in the moment and not distracted.
4) Engage: Have a true heart-to-heart conversation. Avoid blaming or name-calling. Stick to the facts, and focus on what you can both do to move forward. If your partner needs to be tested and treated, figure out a way to help make that happen.
5) Follow-up: This can be the most difficult part – make sure your partner heard what you have to say, and make sure that necessary referrals for testing and treatment get taken care of soon. With proper planning and care, the STD talk does not have to be the last conversation you have with your partner.
Not everyone tells their partner(s) when they have an STI. If you choose not to tell your sexual partner(s), make sure you are careful to take precautions to prevent passing the STI on. If you are concerned that you may have passed an STI to your partner, find out how to tell them to get tested in person or anonymously.
If you have HIV, under criminal law you could be charged for not telling your partner before any vaginal, anal or oral sex, or other activities with you that could expose them to HIV.
Get the facts about the STI, how it is passed and prevented. If you choose, you can continue to have sex with your partner and practice safer sex.
Depending on the type of STI your partner has, you may need to have testing and treatment. Find out more about getting tested.
It takes courage to bring up the topic of STIs. If you can, thank your partner for being honest with you even if you are upset by the news.
If you are not sure what to think, ask for time to get more information so that you come to your own decision about what you are okay with.
There are lots of ways to have safer sex and people living with STIs can continue to have an active sex life.