SO YOU’VE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH A STD, NOW WHAT?
When faced with the news that you’ve contracted an STD, it’s totally understandable to get caught up in a tidal wave of emotions.
You might feel fear, shame, confusion, maybe regret. It’s a lot to process on top of whatever treatment you have ahead. There’s a lot of negative stigma often associated with the topic of STDs. We tend to hear a lot about how to prevent them, but not what to do when they actually happen.
With almost 20 million new cases of STDs/STIs each year in the U.S. alone, it is a struggle that’s very real! Although for as difficult as the journey can be at times, going on to live a rewarding life – sex included – is still totally possible with the help of a few key tactics along the way.
It’s Not The End Of The World
First and foremost, it’s important to realize that while not ideal, STDs happen. In fact, it’s estimated that half of sexually active people will contract an STI by the time they’re 25. So instead of shaming or beating yourself up about it, just pause and take some time to reflect on the news.
A good place to start is by accepting that having a STD doesn’t make you a “dirty” person. It’s not something the rest of the world will forever judge you about. Because they’re so often stigmatized, a diagnosis can be hard to swallow. Although in reality, STDs are easier to treat than ever!
Once you’ve let the news sink in, it’s also important to see a professional, pronto. Unlike the cough you know you can shake, an a STD is a legitimate medical matter that needs legit medical attention. You need a doctor’s appointment to run any other needed tests to fully assess the situation. Once they know what’s going on, they can give you recommendations of the best way to treat your diagnosis.
Everywhere you turn these days, people are talking about “self-care”. But when it comes to certain things like your physical health, this practice is extra important.
Everyone copes differently with big news, like that of a diagnosis. Talking it out with someone supportive you know is a key step in the self-care process. It’s one thing to live in your own head about something and another to verbally lay it all out on the table to someone else. So whether it’s a close friend, family member, therapist or even anonymous STD-support hotline, that person’s emotional support can do wonders for your own state of mind.
Once you feel like you know your status, notify any partners that came in contact with it, too. Which, surprisingly enough, can be self-care exercise in and of itself. When sharing the news with a partner or partners, presenting yourself in a calm and self-assured manner (instead of frazzled and/or ashamed) can help them better handle it, as well as your ongoing journey of emotionally coming to terms with everything.
BOUNCING BACK From STDs
As we said, STDs are far from a nail in the coffin of your sex life. HOWEVER, there are some very important responsibilities you have to uphold along the way – depending on which type you have.
Bacterial STIs/STDs (such as gonorrhea, syphilis or chlamydia) can be cured with antibiotics. If you have one of these, steer clear of sex until your doctor confirms the treatment is complete. Viral varieties (A.K.A. the four H’s: HIV, HPV, hepatitis and herpes) can only be managed, not “cured”. In these cases, you have to be diligent about ongoing treatment and disclose your diagnoses any future partners.
PRECAUTION & PREVENTION
Taking precautions to prevent them as much as possible is always a smart idea.
For people that have a viral STD/STI, make sure you take the viral medication (if you were prescribed it) to reduce the risk of it spreading to your partner. If you’re uninfected but at high risk of contracting HIV, there’s also preventative medication like PrEP.
Other good precautionary practices include wearing condoms, using lube to help prevent condoms from breaking as well as micro-tears inside the vagina, and most of all—not being afraid to approach the topic in the first place.
It’s awkward, it’s embarrassing, believe me – we know. But having the conversation about your respective STD/STI statuses from the start is the responsible thing to do. And it’s way less awkward than having to tell them (or be told) after the fact. There’s a variety of ways to bring it up, and to help make things less intimidating, you can even suggest getting tested together.
It’s never fun or sexy, but disclosure is a necessary conversation to have. So save gambling for the casino instead of your sex life! You and your partner just want to look out for each other’s health.
STDs are alive and real, so if you have one, know that you are so much more than your diagnosis. Without a doubt it’s not fun and can require a lot of work to amend, but always remember you are far from alone and can go on to live as happy of a life as anyone else.
Alex Anderson is an LA-based lifestyle designer proactively raging against the cultural grain. By day she works in television production, and by night enjoys writing, sewing and seeking guidance from the stars. She also finally has an all black kitty named “Cher.” You can follow her alt-lifestyle blog MSFT Living and on Instagram!