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STIs

Living with an STI

There are many ways you can manage your symptoms, relationships and circumstances to help make living with an STI easier. 

STIs caused by viruses can be treated and managed with medication, but they can’t be cured. These viruses include HIV, herpes, HPV (which causes genital warts), and hepatitis B.

HIV is treated with anti-viral medication, as well as medication which prevents your sexual partners from getting HIV. Find out more about HIV.

Herpes is also treated with antiviral medication which stops the virus from multiplying, which can also lessen symptoms. Find out more about herpes.

There’s no treatment for HPV. Most HPV infections do not cause any problems and are cleared by your body within 2 years. However, if HPV causes genital warts, these can be treated with creams or by freezing them. Find out more about genital warts.

Hepatitis B is managed using antiviral medication, which can help reduce the symptoms. Find out more about Hepatitis B.

There can be lots of complicated feelings around living with an STI. Some people feel sad, angry, fearful or uncertain about what this will mean for them.  However, there are many ways you can manage your symptoms, relationships and circumstances that can mean living with an STI for any period of time doesn’t feel too difficult. If you are having concerns or complicated feelings about living with an STI, it can help to get more information and find emotional support. 

Although it might feel like it at first, it’s important to remember that having an STI won’t mean the end of your sex life and is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Stigma

A concern for many people living with an STI, particularly when they are first diagnosed, is the stigma associated with them. People often feel anxious that it will change how others think about them or that it will affect their sex life in the future. 

Stigmatising people with STIs is unfair, as it can make them feel like there is something wrong with them, when actually it is very normal. 

Read more about STIs and stigma.

Tips for living with an STI 

Plenty of people live happy lives with an STI. Here are some of the key tips to living with an STI.  

Getting support 

You don’t have to cope on your own – talking to people you trust about your feelings can make the experience of having an STI less daunting or scary. It’s okay to ask for support. 

There are also lots of organisations and support groups that can help with any STI you might have, particularly those which you live with long term. If you aren’t sure where to start, you can contact your local sexual health service to ask for advice.

Telling people about your sexual health status 

It’s important to tell your sexual partners that you have an STI, and this can feel scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Having conversations about your sexual health status will become easier with practice, particularly as you reach a point where you don’t feel you need to apologise or have any shame around having an STI.  

Find out more about talking to your partner(s) about STIs.

Learning how to read your body 

With any ongoing infection, such as genital herpes, you will get better at anticipating when an outbreak might happen, what your triggers are, and how to manage your symptoms when they happen. With time and practice, you can get to a point where managing your STI will take up much less space in your mind than at the start. 

Do your research 

Living with an STI will have different implications depending on what STI it is. Find out more about living with particular STIs from the following helpful websites:  

What if my partner has been diagnosed with an STI? 

If your partner has told you that they have an STI, you may have a lot of questions about what this means for you. Some things you can do for yourself and your partner are: 

  • Do some research. You could do this by looking at trustworthy websites or talking to a sexual health service about the STI, how it is passed and prevented. You can explore ways to practice safer sex while lowering the chances of getting the STI 
  • Get tested. If your partner has been diagnosed with an STI, there is a change you will also have it (even if you don’t have symptoms), so you need to get tested as soon as possible. If you are diagnosed with an STI, you can get treated. 
  • Be kind. While you may have some complicated feelings about your partner’s diagnosis, it’s really important not to respond with shame or anger. If you are feeling those things, it might be useful to do some research into the stigma around STIs and work through where those feelings are coming from before discussing them with your partner.  
  • Take your time. It can be a lot to take in if you partner is diagnosed with an STI, particularly if it is viral and therefore not curable. Take the time that you need to process and look after each other. You can also ask other trusted people in your life for support, although remember that if they haven’t given you permission to tell someone else about their diagnosis you must keep the information confidential.

Remember, an STI diagnosis isn’t a disaster, whether it’s your partner or you that has been diagnosed! It won’t mean the end of your relationship, your sex life, or your own health.  

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