If you think you’ve been exposed to an STI, get tested – even if you don’t show any symptoms. If you’re exhibiting symptoms, go to your health care provider. A lot of STIs can be quickly cleared up with antibiotics. Many, if left untreated, can lead to more serious and permanent health problems, including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. The sooner you know you have an STI, the sooner you can cure it. If cost is an issue, many family planning clinics, public health centers and student health centers offer services for free or a sliding scale fee. Find free testing at GetTested.com.
Tell Your Partners
If you test positive for an STI, tell your partner(s) as soon as possible so they can get tested and treated (if necessary). This will help reduce the risk of spreading an STI to other partners, as well as reduce the chances of a partner passing an STI back to you. If you think you’ve put any current or previous partners at risk, be an ethical human being and inform them of their potential risk. They have a right to know.
If you’re not sure not sure how to kick-start the conversation with your partner, here are a few resources to help get you started:
Conversation Starters from the Start Talking. Stop HIV. campaign – CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
Talk to Your Partner – STDs & Testing (GYT)
Telling Your Partner You Have an STD – TeensHealth
Make sure you follow through on whatever course of action your doctor prescribes. That means taking all your medicine – exactly as your doctor tells you to – and holding off on sex until a bacterial STI is gone.
An STI diagnosis can be a nerve-racking experience that can bring up some pretty strong emotions. That's totally understandable. Hopefully, your partner is understanding and willing to listen. If they’re not, it’s perfectly OK to take your fears and concerns to an empathetic third party, whether it’s a close friend, counselor or therapist.
My doctor didn't recommend getting retested since the course of antibiotics would kick any infection out of my system. That said, I went and got retested after I finished my cycle of meds because I like knowing my status.
Practice Safer Sex
Since you can spread STIs even when you don't have any symptoms, it's a good idea to avoid unprotected sex. Talk to new partners about STI status before engaging in sexual activity and continue to get tested regularly.
Be Kind to Yourself
Before you blame yourself or your partner, know that STIs are incredibly common. They do not discriminate and can happen to anyone.
The bottom line: There's no right or wrong way to handle an STI scare. Just be ethical and disclose positive test results with partners. And take care of yourself!