STDs may be a taboo subject yet a surprising number of people have suffered from one at some time in their life.
Herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhoea are just a few of the nasty conditions which can easily be caught through sexual contact.
But what should you do if you suspect you may have been exposed to one of the viruses? Here’s a step by step guide to the action you should take.
If you’re in a relationship, it’s not too late to try and protect your partner so until you get the results of any test, make sure you practice safe sex, or even better abstain completely.
Not every virus is passed each time an individual is exposed to it, so you may be able to prevent passing it on to your partner.
Practising safe sex is critical to good health
Using a condom will certainly reduce the chance of passing the disease onto anyone else but they’re not foolproof. Slippage or the possibility of tiny rips and tears in the condom mean that you could easily expose another person to an STD without meaning to. Certain diseases such as herpes may extend beyond the protection area of the condom rendering the barrier ineffective.
STDs can cause many symptoms including difficulty urinating, pain, redness, discharge and swelling and a number of the conditions can present in a similar way.
If you have been potentially exposed to the virus you could spend an almost limitless amount of time and energy in trying to assess which condition you may have. While this is understandable, the next step is the same, no matter what you think the condition may be.
You need to get tested.
It doesn’t matter whether you use home testing kits, see your GP or attend a specialist GUM clinic, you need to get tested.
Don’t be tempted to assume that whatever you have will go away on its own. The symptoms may be mild now but some STDs can go on to destroy systems within your body, causing widespread damage if not caught and treated.
If you’ve practiced safe sex it’s fairly standard procedure to check for HIV automatically. This is because the disease can present without any symptoms at all for many years and despite its horrific reputation, it doesn’t have to be a killer, if managed properly.
When you know what STD you have caught, you will be prescribed the right kind of treatment to combat the virus.
In some cases, you may be offered the treatment before the results come back. This might be when the person you caught it from is honest enough to tell you what you have caught, or when the doctor can more or less tell exactly what you are likely to have based on a visual inspection.
If you think you might have an STD, seek urgent medical advice
Don’t be tempted to cut your treatment regime short, even if you start to feel better. There are some strains of STD which are starting to become resistant to treatment and this is primarily because people have stopped taking the treatment before they are totally eradicated.
You may feel better but this doesn’t mean the disease has been wiped out internally.
Talk to your sexual partners
Arguably one of the most difficult things you will have to do, it’s important to let your sexual partners know what they have been exposed to so they can get treatment too.
If you don’t want to get in touch with previous partners, any good sexual health clinic will help you out by contacting them on your behalf. Your name will never be mentioned so there will be no backlash, but you will also have prevented the disease potentially being spread further.
It’s natural to not want to face the consequences of being exposed to an STD but in the vast majority of cases, the STD will be easily treatable. You can’t begin to get treated until you’re tested so take a deep breath and get started and you’ll soon start to feel better.