If you’ve just been diagnosed with an STI, you may be feeling ashamed or embarrassed. But there’s no reason to! STIs are very common. There may be a stigma around them, but if more people discussed and knew the facts about STIs they may realize they are manageable and treatable.
Before we go any further, let’s quickly pause to chat about STIs. Sexually transfitted infections, or STIs, are passed from person to person from particular viruses and bacteria (aka pathogens). They are most commonly transmitted through the skin or bodily fluids, which is why sex is the primary way to transmit them. STIs can only be passed from another person who currently has an STI.
STIs are not to be confused with STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases. All STDs start as STIs, but not all STIs progress to STDs. The word “disease” can have a negative connotation. Many health experts are making an effort to label these two different conditions properly.
So don’t let an STI diagnosis take control of your life. While you may feel lost and upset, there are ways you can manage and mitigate the effects of your STI. This article will discuss how you can continue living life to its fullest while having an STI diagnosis.
1. Be Proactive About Your and Your Partner’s Health
Once you or your partner have been diagnosed with an STI, it’s time to do some research. Being proactive about seeking treatment is one of the best ways to continue to live life to the fullest. First, you need to find out more about what type of STI you have. This will help determine if the STI can be cured and what type of treatment is needed.
Bacterial infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can be cured. However, viral infections including hepatitis B, herpes, HPV, and HIV can only be treated and are therefore still transmittable. If you have a viral infection, you should stop having sex with your partner until you see your physician or specialist.
That said, don’t be scared if you are diagnosed with a viral STI. Getting on a treatment plan quickly can help manage your symptoms. Also, getting treatment is easier than ever. For example, a genital herpes treatment can be conveniently delivered to your home, which helps keep your diagnosis private.
2. Be Open (Within Your Discretion)
One way to help erase the stigma around an STI is to talk about it. Being open with your partner is particularly important. If you believe that you’ve potentially passed an STI to another sexual partner, you should also let them know. Having the conversation may be difficult and there may be some judgment or blame involved. Just remember that your health is of the utmost importance and you telling them is only helping them in the long run.
It can be helpful to enter the conversation with some facts to help back up your story. Each year there are more than 374 million new STI infections worldwide. And STIs are by no means a death sentence or the end to your sexual life. These millions of people continue to have healthy sex lives after treating their STIs. Try to have the conversation face to face so you can read their reaction and respond accordingly.
If you were just diagnosed and still trying to process your own feelings, you may not want to talk to others just yet. If that’s the case, consider talking with a close friend you can trust. You’ll want an accountability buddy who can have your back. Another option is to talk with a therapist or counselor. These resources are readily available now thanks to on-demand, virtual services.
3. Be Yourself
Being diagnosed with an STI can feel like a permanent marker or stamp was involuntarily placed on you. But there’s no reason to feel that way! After you’ve gotten proper treatment and talked with your partner or partners, then it’s time to embrace life. This isn’t to say that you should forget about your diagnosis, but it shouldn’t be on your mind 24/7.
Get back to doing the things you love, whether that’s attending a workout class, reading, or planning a trip. Fortunately, STIs don’t impact your day-to-day routine and you may go days without even thinking about it!
At the same time, remember to take care of yourself. This can look like a lot of things, such as staying in on a Friday night for some self-care or taking a walk. It could also mean going to dinner with friends. Everyone is different and will have various emotional needs during this time. There are several resources available to you if you’d like to join a group or chat with others also diagnosed with STIs.
Yes, being diagnosed with an STI can be scary, but you should never feel ashamed of yourself. You are human, and these infections happen to millions of individuals every year. With the right mindset and the right attitude, you can continue to embrace life and live every day to the fullest.