When you’re in a relationship, you can expect to deal with certain obstacles. Although you might not expect STIs to be one of those hurdles, they very well may be. What should you do if you test positive or your partner tells you they have an STI?
First, don’t freak out. Discovering that you or your partner has an STI isn’t a death sentence. It doesn’t mean that someone cheated because some STIs take a while to present themselves while others don’t show up on tests immediately (HIV is one of those, taking three months for antibodies to show up in tests). Nor does it mean that you’re dirty, unworthy or unlovable. In fact, nearly all sexually active men and women will contract HPV in their lifetime according to the CDC, and you might not even know if you’ve had it!
However, STIs can have serious consequences, so you can’t afford to bury your head in the sand.
If one of you has an STI, it’s important for the other to get tested. In the mean time, you may want to avoid having unprotected sex. Note that using condoms may not be enough to prevent the spread of some infections. HPV is just one that spreads through skin-to-skin contact so you can pass it on even if you are using condoms.
You can get tests done at family planning clinics such as Planned Parenthood. Your OBGYN may also provide those services. To find a testing center near you, check out this search tool on the CDC’s website: https://gettested.cdc.gov.
Different tests detect different STIs. For example, your doctor may test your urine or blood for chlamydia and gonorrhea, herpes. HIV, and syphilis. She may also perform a swab or a PAP smear to look for HPV. Note that there’s no test for HPV in men.
You may need to wait before you can have a test done as is the case with HIV. Engage in safer sex during the interim.
Take any antibiotics per your doctor’s instructions. You shouldn’t share your medicine nor should you stop taking it even if it appears your infection has cleared up.
Some infections can’t be cleared with a round of antibiotics. Most bodies fight off HPV within two years; although, this may not always be the case. Herpes is a lifelong infection that requires treatment after the initial diagnosis and periodically whenever it flares up. Some people with herpes take daily suppression medication. Similarly, doctors prescribe antivirals to people with HIV to make it harder to transmit.
Talking to Your Significant Other
An STI can be the end of your relationship, or it can be something that the two of you face together, ultimately bringing you closer together. The way you talk about your STI is important, however. While it’s difficult, you’ll want to remain calm.
Don’t accuse your partner of anything if you’ve had a positive STI test result. They may not have been aware. It may be leftover from a previous sexual encounter before you were exclusive or even knew one another.
If you have to tell a current or former partner about your STI status, you should definitely do it before any sexual activity. They need to know the potential risk and make decisions about safer sex. In fact, if someone knows they have an STI and doesn’t tell you, it might be best to end things with them.
You should be prepared for questions about treatment and safer sex options. Some partners may not want to have a sexual relationship, but you might be surprised how often people are okay with STIs as long as they’re knowledgeable about it. If your partner has told you about their status, remain calm, ask questions and don’t cast judgment.
If you need more information, you can call one of the following STI hotlines.
- 1-919-361-8488 (American Sexual Health Association)
- 1-800-230-PLAN (Planned Parenthood)
- 1-800-CDC-INFO (CDC)
- 1-800-003-707 (Marie Stopes International, Australia)
- 0845 122 8690 (FPA, England)
- 0845 122 8687 (FPA, Northern Ireland)
Knowing you have an STI or are at risk to contract one is scary. Hopefully, this knowledge helps you when dealing with an STI in your relationship.
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