STIs are common, generally nonfatal, and easily treated — but they can still be emotional, life-changing experiences. While an STI diagnosis might initially seem like the end of the world, the reality is that your future isn’t so grim. STI patients can live long, happy lives, filled with relationships, intimacy, and — yes — even sex.
The Days After the Diagnosis
OK, so no one likes being diagnosed with an STI. Whether you’re experiencing the re-emergence of an existing STI or the contraction of a new one, you’re liable to feel upset. Negative emotions might start swirling around your head; you may feel angry, embarrassed, or scared.
Remember that taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. If you’re feeling distressed, reach out to a friend, family member, or therapist to talk it through.
Not that your physical health can be ignored. In the time immediately after your diagnosis, you’ll need to start treatment — and that can mean a trip to the drugstore. While it might be embarrassing to stand in that pharmacy line, realize that it’s ultimately life-saving.
With treatment, an STI need not be a permanent burden, and there are many STIs that can be cured completely. Normally, these are bacterial infections such as syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea.
While certain STIs, like genital herpes and HPV, are incurable viruses, they’re certainly treatable. In fact, many patients live symptom-free lives even with an incurable STI, as long as it’s treated immediately.
Even after receiving your medication, you may still be panicking. It’s important to remember that the prognosis is almost always good. The aforementioned bacterial STIs can be cured with a simple course of antibiotics. STIs that can’t, like genital herpes, are likely to go into remission if the outbreaks are managed.
If flare-ups do occur, the medicine around STIs has evolved tremendously in recent years. You can even avoid those embarrassing trips to the pharmacy with self-care options, like genital herpes treatment at home.
Venturing Back Into the Dating Scene
If you’re single, and you’ve just received an STI diagnosis, you might feel hesitant to date. Even if you’ve taken your medicine and the STI is gone, the reluctance remains. Cultivating intimate connections can be difficult even without a medical hindrance, and now it may feel even harder.
Many STI patients experience anxiety around dating or being sexually active. It may even stop them from pursuing relationships in the first place.
Fortunately, an STI diagnosis isn’t the scarlet letter that it once was; STIs are more common now than ever before. Statistics show that more than half of U.S. adults personally know someone who has contracted an STI.
In fact, research indicates that over half of U.S. citizens will contract an STI in their lifetime. Hopefully, this data will be enough to assure you that you can begin to date again. You can even become sexually active after your STI has become asymptomatic.
Truthfully, the conversation before your first post-diagnosis sexual encounter can be an emotional one. Yet it’s important to share this information with a potential sexual partner, as withholding it could be harmful to both parties. Not that bringing up an STI diagnosis will be the easiest thing you’ve ever done. Relay the information gently, yet honestly, and have facts at the ready.
Disclosing an STI diagnosis can go several ways. Remember that statistics indicate many people have STIs, whether they’re dormant or active. As a result, your romantic partner may be more nonchalant about your STI status than you think.
If they aren’t, the conversation could turn awkward. Try not to get defensive, angry, or frustrated if your sexual partner has concerns about proceeding. They may be reassured by the fact that STIs are now a natural part of many people’s lives, and there’s no shame in having one.
Another way to break into the dating scene after your STI diagnosis is to seek out potential partners who understand what you’re going through. Dating sites that cater to individuals with STIs practically guarantee that you’ll meet singles who won’t judge you for your STI-positive status.
While an STI isn’t a dark cloud hanging over your head, it also shouldn’t be swept under the rug. The long-term effects of an untreated STI can be life-altering, and in some cases, fatal. The World Health Organization reports that if left untreated, STIs can cause blindness, cancer, infertility, or brain damage. Syphilis in particular can develop into neurosyphilis, which results in irreversible neurological deterioration.
Getting tested for STIs is recommended for any sexually active adult, even if you’ve never had one. But if you’ve been diagnosed with an STI in the past year, it’s absolutely essential to get tested often.
Being retested may trigger some of the negative emotions you felt when you received your initial diagnosis. But ultimately, you’ll feel more emotionally steady with either a clean test in hand or a treatment plan in mind.
Some Key Takeaways
There are three key takeaways when you receive a new STI diagnosis. The first is to recognize that STIs are treatable. If you’ve contracted a bacterial infection, you’ll be rid of it after a few days of antibiotics. And even if your STI is viral, it can still become dormant, and symptoms will disappear. Just remember to treat any STIs quickly and get retested regularly so they don’t become an insurmountable problem.
The next thing is that, statistically, STIs are widely reported. Patients diagnosed with STIs are in the millions worldwide, so you don’t have to feel like a pariah. Even if you’re rejected by one potential partner, you shouldn’t feel ashamed — that’s on them. The data is on your side: contracting an STI is as normal and judgment-free as catching a cold.
The final thing is that an STI shouldn’t stop you from dating or having sex. While you need to be open with possible partners about your STI status, you don’t need to be abstinent. Many patients with STIs live without feeling the weight of their health issues every day. Just as long as you’re careful, communicative, and considerate with a potential sexual partner, your sex life will live on.