Ah, the past… It was a simpler time, but honestly a worse time. Gone are the days when the flu could decimate a community. Or the mere hint of food poisoning would signal death and topple you from your steed. We live in a world where what would have spelled the end for our forebears are now a minor inconvenience. And when it comes to STIs, for most of the major illnesses, this is definitely the case.
We’ve talked a lot about the risks and how to avoid them. But, what if, worst-case scenario, you do get unlucky. What then? That’s what we want to break apart in this article. So join us in the penultimate episode in this series on Taking care of your…sexual health. As we look at what to do once you’ve got an STI. Looking at receiving immediate care, and the Dos and Don’ts of telling your sexual partners. It’s an STI not the end of the world. You’ll be back in the saddle in no time.
Disclaimer: We’re a men’s grooming brand, not doctors. The information in this article is meant for informational purposes only, and should not be used to diagnose. If you think you have an STI or are at risk for an STI contact your doctor. Testing and treatment will vary by country. A local medical profession will be able to advise you on what’s most appropriate. If in doubt, don’t tough it out, taking care of yourself is sexy, so go speak to a medical professional.
What’s that lurking below my belt?
If you discover you have something your first port of call is the doctor. As mentioned in the disclaimer we’re shaving professionals, not medical professionals. So please seek the advice of someone who knows the ins and outs of STIs. They’ll be better able to advise you based on your risk category. And they’ll know the local risk factors and can advise on the testing and treatment you need.
There are lots of different STIs with different treatment protocols. Chlamydia and gonorrhea only need a course of antibiotics and a few weeks out of the saddle. While HIV and hepatitis which can’t be cured, but are treatable. Some STIs are just for Christmas but some are for life. And depending on what you contracted different solutions will be called for.
We’ve listed all the major STIs in the previous article. So if you want to get an idea of their individual quirks go back and read that. But once again if you think you may have an STI or are worried about being exposed to an STI, see a doctor. In best the case they’ll put your mind at ease. And at worst they’ll be able to get you started on the treatment you need.
How to tell your sexual partners
Here comes one of the more awkward parts of getting an STI, telling your sexual partners. This is something you should talk to your doctor about as they will be able to give you some advice. Depending on the local protocol they may be able to contact your sexual partners for you.
Everyone is now familiar with contact tracing from covid, and that’s what some healthcare systems can do. If you’re here in our home country of The Netherlands they’ve got a handy little anonymous partner informer. You get a code from your primary medical professional. Then you can put in the phone number of your partner(s). And the GGD will send them a text message telling them to get tested.
If that’s not the case in your area. Or you don’t feel the need to inform people anonymously. It’s up to you to write those texts or make those calls yourself. If this worries you, ask your doc about how to break the news. We’ve also outlined some Dos and Don’ts below. Regardless of how you end up telling them, you owe it to your sexual partner(s) to do it quickly.
We did a rundown of the different STIs in the previous article. And you’ll remember that many STIs can cause serious complications down the road, even if you don’t have symptoms. Many increase your risk of contracting HIV. And can put you and your partner(s) at a higher risk for many types of cancer. So you must let people know as you could be saving them from much bigger problems down the road. And stop them from spreading the illness to anyone else.
What you should do
- Again an obvious one, stop having sex with your current partner(s). Even with a condom the chances of passing it on are not zero. And you run the risk of infecting your partners or reinfecting yourself.
- Make a list of the people you slept with around the time you could have caught the illness.
- Generally, you will need to contact people you’ve had unprotected sex with, including oral. But talk to your doctor about who you need to tell based on which STI you have. Most STIs can only be transmitted via fluid. But several, like crabs and trichomoniasis, can be passed on via skin-to-skin contact. So it’s good to know who you need to contact.
- Figure out how you want to frame the message. If the STI you got is very curable, like chlamydia or gonorrhea, you might send a message like: “Hey I did an STI test and popped for x. Luckily it’s treatable with antibiotics, but you should get tested.”
- For something more serious like HIV, or persistent like herpes you might want to leave out the specifics to avoid panicking the other person. “Hey I tested positive for an STI, you should probably get a test to be on the safe side.” Although it’s pretty likely you’ll get the follow-up question of: “What is it?”
What you shouldn’t do
- Not tell people. It sucks to have to tell someone you may have given them an STI or may have got an STI from them, but that’s the situation you find yourself in. What you need to do now is the responsible thing.
- Blame anyone. Maybe you’re sure that this person gave you an STI, but all you’re going to do is make everyone feel terrible if you start playing the blame game.
- Likewise, you shouldn’t’ accept someone trying to blame you or accuse you of anything. Getting an STI isn’t a moral judgment, all it indicates is that you had sex with someone who had an STI. And as I showed in the opening article of this series, that might have put you at a bigger risk than you might have thought. As long as you’re regularly looking after your sexual health there should be no need for someone to be giving you a hard time over it. (On the flip side, if you are being reckless maybe you should start taking more care. As shown it’s not just your health and enjoyment that’s being put at risk, and you do bear responsibility for that if you’re not being responsible.)
- Be very vocal about it. Maybe for you getting an STI isn’t a big deal, but it might be a bigger deal for other people. Especially if you’re in a small friend group and your friends know who you’re hooking up with, being discrete could save the other person from having their personal life gossiped about. It’s up to them what information they want to disclose and when.
Back in the saddle
Try to go easy on yourself when you find out you have an STI. And give people the benefit of the doubt if you think they might have given you something. With the right treatment and the right attitude you’ll be past this episode in no time. Giddy up.
For more in this series see:
- Sex. Know the risk.
- How to minimise your risk: Taking care of your…sexual health #2
- The enemy at the gates: Taking care of your…sexual health #3