Establishing a new relationship is hard work: there’s the meet cute, the important first date, the essential first kiss, and then eventually moving to intercourse together. Unless at some point you both decide to break things off, the stress of increasing physical, emotional, and spiritual connectivity may only intensify from there.
So what do you do if an STD interferes with your intimate progress?
“Why should it be any more shameful to catch an infection from sex than it is from shaking hands, a kiss or being coughed upon?” asks Dr. Jen Gunter — a California obstetrician and gynecologist. “No one is immune to an STI,” adds Emily Depasse, sexologist and founder of SexELDucation. “[They] are more common than most people realize and testing positive isn’t indicative of one’s character.”
Indeed, according to the CDC, one in five Americans have an STI, which is 20% of the population. (For context, only 2-6% of the United States’ population has naturally red hair.) Accepting this truth, and moving on to the requirements of treatment and healing is better for your own health, and that of your new partner.
Knowledge is power, but knowledge is also empowering. Getting educated about the prevalence, symptoms, and easy treatments of STIs and STDs will help you get the right kind of treatment. The American Sexual Health Association provides a comprehensive guide of STDs and STIs (the infections that cause STDs) from chlamydia to trichomoniasis. This tool can equip you with all the necessary information about causes, symptoms, and treatments. Your doctor can also provide thorough information, and answer your personal questions directly.
Even when you know you have an STI or STD, it’s important to continue regular testing for additional infections. Keep in mind that many STDs and STIs may have no symptoms at all, which is why you should get thoroughly tested at least once a year.
Depending on your level of sexual activity, more frequent testing may be recommended. “If you have multiple partners, particularly if you’re not using [protection],” advises Dr. Edward W. Hook III, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and microbiology at the University of Alabama, “you should consider more frequent testing.” This means at least every six months, if not every four.
Why get tested if you don’t have any problematic or alarming symptoms? Depending on the type of STI or STD you have — and how long it has gone untreated — several serious medical issues can escalate, including increased risk of infertility, a weakened immune system, and increased risk for cancer.
Meanwhile, you could be harming those with whom you come in sexual contact.
Just like knowledge, naming a thing is power. Being able to talk honestly with your new partner about your STD or STI status is important for many reasons. For one, it protects your partner’s health, and gives them agency regarding how to proceed. It also establishes clear and honest communication between the two of you — which is key to any successful relationship.
Sex therapist Rachel Needle gave CNN this advice about how to have the conversation: “First, make sure you tell them in person, face-to-face. Be prepared to educate your partner about the STI you have, including ways you can be sexually active and reduce the chance of transmission. If you feel comfortable, you can share with them how you contracted the STI and how, if at all, it has impacted you. Allow your partner to ask any questions they have and provide them with good resources to learn more on their own.”
Though it may seem scary and intimidating, taking control of an STD or STI diagnosis may actually be easier than coming up with creative ideas for your next awesome date.
If you are concerned about an STD, STI, or related health complications, our specialists can help. At United Physician Group, we are committed to your health, and we believe in prevention and intervention. Contact us online or call 833-523-0906 to make an appointment today.