Sexually transmitted infections are quite common, and by no means are they exclusive to individuals who have risky sex. Even if you use condoms 99% of the time, that single time that you forgo a condom could cause you to end up with an STI. If you think you may have contracted one of these illnesses, here are some tips to help you along the process of finding treatment.
- Don’t panic
First of all, if you haven’t visited a doctor yet, then there’s no reason for you to panic. If you realize you made a mistake and forgot to wear protection, or you are noticing signs and symptoms that seem like an STI, freaking out will only make everything worse. The internet has a lot of good information about STIs, but it’s no stand-in for a doctor, and often Googling your symptoms can lead you to believe you have an illness that you have not actually contracted. Take a few deep breaths, remind yourself that it’s not the end of the world, and schedule an appointment at a sexual health clinic.
- Visiting the doctor
Taking a trip to a medical facility to get checked out for STIs can be a nerve-racking experience, so it may be a good idea to bring along a trusted friend. If you’re not sure where to find a clinic in your neighborhood, you can research online, call your healthcare provider or ask friends for advice. Many major hospitals and health clinics have specific times when STI testing is free, so if you’re on a budget, this could be the option for you.
- Receiving your diagnosis
After you’ve been tested, you’ll either be told you have a clean bill of health (in which case it’s time to celebrate!) or that your suspicions were right and you do have an STI. Once again, don’t panic – instead, ask your doctor for information on the illness. He or she may provide you with literature that describes the illness and treatment, or there may be a conversation between you and your doctor to address any questions you may have. For some illnesses, you might be able to receive treatment right then at there. Others will require you to fill a prescription or return to the clinic for further testing at a later date.
- Informing your partners
If you have received an STI diagnosis, then the next responsible step is to inform your partner or partners of your diagnosis. This can be a difficult process, so you’ll need to enter into it with a level head and a thick skin. It’s likely that some of your partners may become angry or hurt, but you can remind yourself that you’re doing the right thing. You should urge anyone with whom you’ve had unprotected sex to visit a doctor to determine whether or not they have the illness as well.
If you are in a long-term relationship, then you may find this conversation to be particularly tricky, especially if you’re monogamously committed. This may be a time to evaluate your status as a couple, as a surprise STI may indicate that someone has been unfaithful.
- Learning from your mistakes
Contracting a sexually transmitted infection can be a major wakeup call that you need to rethink your priorities when it comes to sex. Protecting yourself and your partner from illnesses like gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes and HIV should be your no. 1 goal when getting down and dirty. This means using protection each and every time you have sex, and getting regular STI screenings, even when you are almost positive you’re 100 percent clean.