What to Do When You Have an STD
Sexually transmitted diseases are an unfortunate reality for millions of Americans. Even if you practice safer sex, you might still contract an STD, and such a diagnosis can be devastating. Many people feel as though their sex lives are over, or as though they are being “punished” for enjoying sex. Shame, embarrassment, and anxiety are common, and these feelings are multiplied when it comes time to share the diagnosis with new partners.
Although an STD diagnosis is a serious issue and one that requires gravity and maturity, the truth is that it does not have to be the end of your sex life. Nor does it have to put a damper on your sexual enjoyment and freedom. However, you might feel confused or lost after receiving the diagnosis. The following steps can help ease your anxiety and address your concerns:
Get the facts. Often the scariest part of an STD diagnosis (or any medical diagnosis, for that matter) is the initial shock. Your head will likely be swirling with questions and worry, and you might feel overwhelmed or taken aback. As such, you might not be cognizant enough to discuss the issue with your doctor fully.
When you get home and have more time to think, grab a pen and paper and write down the fears and questions you have. Make a return appointment to see your doctor to address those concerns.
Ask your physician for any literature on the subject, or whether he or she has any books or Web sites to recommend that can be helpful for you during this time. Information is power, and the more you know about your particular diagnosis, the more prepared and practical you can be.
Examine the decisions that led to your diagnosis. As I’ve said before, STDs are not 100% preventable even if you practice safer sex each and every time you have sex. However, it’s still important to look back at what might have led to your diagnosis. Did you skip a condom (even during oral sex), or did you have intercourse with someone without first discussing safer sex and STD history?
Don’t look back at these decisions and beat yourself up. Everyone makes impulsive decisions, especially in the bedroom, but you can learn from these mistakes and protect yourself more fully in the future.
Talk to your partner about your diagnosis. Sharing an STD diagnosis with your partner is never easy, but the best way to confront the situation is to be upfront, honest, and clear. Your partner will likely need to be tested right away if there was any chance you passed it on (or if your partner was the one to have passed it on to you), as should any other partners who have been exposed to the STD.
It is tempting to be accusatory and angry, and that is perfectly natural, but remember that wallowing in the past or pointing fingers won’t ultimately be helpful. Additionally, some STDs such as herpes worsen as a result of stress, so it’s important to stay calm and focus on your health. You can’t change the past, but you can rebuild a happier, healthier future.
Ease your way back into sex. You might not want to jump right back into sex after an STD diagnosis, but once you get the green light from your doctor, it’s a good idea to start enjoying sex again. Your sexuality is a big part of who you are, and you shouldn’t deny yourself the pleasure and intimacy of sex simply because of your STD status.
One caveat: You should become educated on how to keep from passing on your STD to others, and you should discuss your STD status with your partner and be completely honest and upfront about your diagnosis. Talk with your doctor about the best ways to keep your partner safe, and incorporate other forms of low-risk intimacy such as massage or mutual masturbation.
Seek therapy. If you are overwhelmed with feelings of shame or anxiety as a result of your diagnosis, or if you feel betrayed and enraged with the partner you received it from, it can be very difficult to move forward and enjoy sex — or life, for that matter. Therapy can be an invaluable part of healing, and it can help you to process these feelings in a safe, healthy manner. Remember, an STD diagnosis isn’t the end of your sexuality, it’s just the beginning of a new, safer sexual journey.