Written by Lauren Bedosky

A positive sexually transmitted disease (STD) result can bring up a flurry of frantic questions. Who gave it to me? Have I given it to someone else? Am I going to be OK?

While those worries are warranted, it’s important to know that—despite how isolating your results might feel—you’re far from alone. Roughly 20 million new sexually transmitted infections are diagnosed and reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year in the United States. [1]

And better news: Your outlook for treatment is pretty good. [2]

All STDs are either curable or manageable once diagnosed, says Jenelle Marie Pierce, executive director of TheSTIProject.com [3,4]. Some can be cured with a single dose of antibiotics. And although some STDs can last a lifetime, most symptoms can be easily managed through medication. [5]

If you suspect you have an STD or have engaged in sex recently, it’s important to get tested. And if you do come back with a positive diagnosis, you can take control. Here’s your four-step plan.


Take Control Tip #1: Keep Up with Regular STD Testing


Even if your STD clears up, it’s possible to get that kind of infection again—or to catch a new type of STD [11,15]. That’s why it’s important to get tested if you:

● Have multiple sex partners
● Are involved with a partner who has an STD
● Are pregnant
● Plan on having sex with a new partner

If you’re sexually active, you need to prioritize regular testing for STDs. Get yours now. And regardless of the results, remember that sexual health is key for overall health and wellness. Get tested as frequently as you can, practice safe sex, and keep communication open with your partners.


Take Control Tip #2: Call Your Doctor


While many STDs aren’t serious, some can cause long-term complications, such as infertility, pelvic pain, and heart disease [6], if they aren’t treated. If you’re pregnant and have an STD, it’s especially important to get treated. Otherwise, you might have pregnancy complications and pass the disease along to your baby.

So if you’ve tested positive for an STD, your very first to-do is a visit with your primary care doctor or OB-GYN. [7]

“Thankfully, we have the technology and resources to help, so if you’re diagnosed with an STD, take some deep breaths. We can help create a management plan,” says Christine Carlan Greves, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN at the Center of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies Medical Group.

Dr. Greves outlines the two most common treatment options for an STD: [7]

1. Antibiotics can treat bacterial and parasitic infections, like gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis [10]. The number of doses and the length treatment varies depending on the infection. Chlamydia, for example, can be cured with a single dose, according to the CDC (11]. Meanwhile, syphilis is easy to cure with one dose of antibiotics in the early stages of an infection, but in later stages, it often requires three doses administered at weekly intervals [12].

No matter which infection you have, it’s important to finish the course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor [11,13]. Antibiotics often stop the infection, but some types of bacteria—gonorrhea in particular—have developed resistance to medication. So if your gonorrhea symptoms stick around for more than a few days after you receive treatment, it’s important visit your doctor for reevaluation. [13]

2. Antiviral drugs are used to treat STDs caused by viruses, such as herpes and HIV [10]. While viral STDs can’t be cured, medications can help you manage symptoms. If you have genital herpes, for example, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to take only when you have symptoms of an outbreak [10]. HIV, on the other hand, must be managed with daily medication to prevent the virus from multiplying and causing more damage to your immune system. Antiviral medications can lower your risk of transmitting the infection to others, but the risk never goes away. Therefore, it’s important to practice safe sex at all times.

Test positive for chlamydia or trichomoniasis? LetsGetChecked offers prescriptions for these so you can start feeling better soon.

Your doctor plays a key role in your STD support system, so if they make you feel uncomfortable or ashamed about your diagnosis, consider finding someone else. “Always remember that you deserve empathetic, shame-free, and inclusive professional healthcare,” Pierce says.

In addition to your treatment plan, your doctor might talk with you about some other important topics: [15]

● Who to inform (in addition to partners, most states require you to report certain STDs to your local or state health department)
● How to prevent other infections in the future
● How to manage symptoms (if your infection is lifelong)
● Where to find emotional support


Take Control Tip #3: Talk With Your Sexual Partners


Sharing an STD diagnosis with sexual partners can be a particularly difficult part of testing positive—if not the most difficult. But it’s also one of the most important. Communicating with partners about the diagnosis allows them to take steps to protect their own health—and the health of other sexual partners. Reach out to partners you’ve had over the past three months to one year, and be sure to tell future partners as well if the STD isn’t curable.

Still, it can be awkward—or even scary—to tell past and current sexual partners about your diagnosis. If the idea makes you cringe, consider trying a free service that sends an anonymous text or email notification to your past partners [16]. Many local health departments also offer this service.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a lifelong STD, talk with your doctor about the best ways to prevent transmitting it to others. If you have a curable STD, just abstain from sex until you’re no longer infectious. Your doctor can provide guidance on this, however. Sometimes retesting and treatment may be required.

Once you do start to have sex again, keep these safe sex best practices in mind: [17,18]

● Use condoms each time you have sex (and keep in mind that you can still get or transmit certain STDs, like herpes, from skin contact even when using a condom).
● Make sure you and your partner get tested for an STD before having sex.


Take Control Tip #4: Seek Out Support


An STD diagnosis often comes as a shock. “It can be easy to get stuck in your head about your diagnosis and what it might mean about you and your life going forward,” Pierce says.
But that’s normal, she says. And it’s OK if you need help coping with your diagnosis.

Pierce recommends trying virtual or in-person support groups, talk therapy, confiding in close friends or family members, and learning as much about your condition that you can.

“The more you understand about your infection, the stigma associated with STDs, and the more stories you hear, the more likely you are to come out of this experience feeling sexually healthy, empowered, and confident,” she says.


References


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Sexually Transmitted Diseases
    Adolescents and Young Adults
    https://www.cdc.gov/std/life-stages-populations/adolescents-youngadults.htm

  2. Oregon Health & Science University
    Mercury, Marriage, and Magic Bullets: Four Centuries of STD Prevention and Treatment
    https://www.ohsu.edu/historical-collections-archives/mercury-marriage-and-magic-bullets-four-centuries-std-prevention

  3. The STI Project
    https://thestiproject.com/

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
    Diseases & Related Conditions
    https://www.cdc.gov/std/general/default.htm

  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    National Institutes of Health
    National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
    Sexually Transmitted Diseases
    https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
    STDs during Pregnancy - CDC Fact Sheet
    https://www.cdc.gov/std/pregnancy/stdfact-pregnancy.htm

  7. Orlando Health
    Christine Carlan Greves, MD - Obstetrics & Gynecology
    https://www.orlandohealth.com/physician-finder/christine-carlan-greves-md#/overview?hcmacid=a0bi000000IJHB8AAP

  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    National Institutes of Health
    Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
    Treatments for Specific Types of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STDs/STIs)
    https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/stds/conditioninfo/specific

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
    Chlamydia Treatment and Care
    https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/treatment.htm

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
    Syphilis Treatment and Care
    https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/treatment.htm

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
    Gonorrhea Treatment and Care
    https://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/treatment.htm

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    What is HIV treatment?
    https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/livingwithhiv/treatment.html

  13. Mayo Clinic
    Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
    Diagnosis & Treatment
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351246

  14. Tell Your Partner
    https://tellyourpartner.org/

  15. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    The Lowdown on How to Prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases
    https://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/lowdown/index.html

  16. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    National Institutes of Health
    Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
    What are the treatments for sexually transmitted diseases and sexually transmitted infections (STDs/STIs)?
    https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/stds/conditioninfo/treatments

  17. Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services
    About Us
    http://comprehendthemind.com/about-us/

  18. STI Project
    Support Groups
    https://thestiproject.com/std-support-groups/

  19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
    Which STD Tests Should I Get?
    https://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/screeningreccs.htm