You Got A STD! – Now What?
The diagnosis of a STD(s) or sexually transmitted diseases can be devastating for most men and women. It may raise several questions in their minds. At the same time, it can also increase concerns about how they can overcome the infection.
The mixed bag of emotions, as well as the health issues that have been diagnosed, need to be managed carefully in order to avoid worsening the condition. Men and women who are suffering from a STD(s) are advised to follow the guidelines given below in order to manage their health in a safe and effective manner and overcome the emotional turmoil caused due to the same.
What are STDs?
When the doctor informs the patients that he or she suffers from a STD, there is a need to understand what it exactly means. Sometimes a diagnosis of a STD is made by patients themselves, based on the specific symptoms they develop. In either case, it is important to understand what a STD(s) means and the different forms of these conditions so that patients can seek appropriate treatment.
A proper understanding of sexually transmitted diseases, how they spread, the various routes of transmission of these infections and the available treatment modalities can help patients recover faster.
A STD(s) or sexually transmitted diseases refer to the infective conditions that are most often, though not exclusively, transmitted through sexual intercourse. The common sexually transmitted infections include HIV, syphilis, genital herpes, chlamydia, genital warts, and gonorrhea. Hepatitis, and trichomoniasis are also common infectious disorders transmitted through sexual intercourse.
Earlier, STDs were referred to as venereal diseases. What makes STDs a serious concern is they are some of the most common contagious diseases. Also, some forms of STDs tend to produce recurring symptoms while some forms are difficult to cure completely.
It is estimated that more than 65 million people in America suffer from incurable STDs. More than 20 million new cases of STDs are reported every year of which nearly 50% are young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years.
Since STDs are known to have long-term emotional and physical consequences, it is important to be aware of the best ways to manage these conditions. Regular treatment coupled with the adoption of safe sex practices can help men and women avoid future sexually transmitted infections.
Hence, the knowledge of how to avoid STDs forms the crux of the management of these infections. Patients who are diagnosed with a STD should find out why or how they might have contracted the infection and how they can avoid such infections in the future. This forms the first step that they should follow after the diagnosis of a STD.
How do sexually transmitted diseases spread?
STDs spread from one person to another through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. STDs such as trichomoniasis may also spread through contact with moist or damp objects such as wet clothing, towels, and toilet seats, though it is more commonly transmitted via sexual contact.
Men and women are at a high risk of STDs if they:
- Have multiple sex partner.
- Have sexual intimacy with someone who has had multiple partners.
- Practice unprotected sex or do not use condoms during intercourse.
- Share needles while injecting intravenous drugs.
- Have used contaminated needles.
- Had a transfusion of infected blood.
- Trade sex for drugs and money.
These risk factors make it clear that STDs can also get transmitted through routes other than sexual intercourse. Hence, it is advisable for men and women to avoid blaming themselves or their partner when they are diagnosed with these conditions.
It should be noted that blaming the partner when the infection has actually been contracted due to the use of an infected needle during the administration of injection or blood transfusion may only strain their relations.
Men and women should rather focus on avoiding the factors that may increase their risk of repeated STD in the future.
It should also be noted that the pathogens that cause STDs can reside in the blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and even saliva of the infected person. Hence, care should be taken to avoid vaginal, anal, as well as oral sex with a partner known to have a STD. Some STDs such as hepatitis B can spread through skin contact and the sharing of personal items like toothbrushes and razors.
Men and women diagnosed with STD should make an effort to educate themselves about the possible modes of transmission of the infection so that the spread of the pathogen to others can be prevented.
Treatment of STDs
The diagnosis of any STD must be followed by the proper treatment of the specific condition. It is advisable to seek advice of a healthcare practitioner for the management of a STD. The doctor would not just prescribe appropriate medications for treating the infection, but also provide advice regarding the best ways to avoid the spread of the disease. Depending on the infection, the patient will be advised the following treatments for the STD:
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics administered in a single dose are usually prescribed for patients diagnosed with STDs of bacterial and parasitic origin. Antibiotics are effective for the management of STDs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and trichomoniasis.
Antibiotics act in a variety of ways to control the infection. They may kill the bacteria directly or create an environment that makes their survival difficult.
In most cases, chlamydia and gonorrhea are treated at the same time as these two infections tend to appear together.
Different antibiotics may be prescribed to patients in varying dosages and durations based on the specific infection and the age of the patients.
Once the antibiotic treatment is started, the entire course of the medication must be completed as recommended. If patients feel they would not be able to take the medication as prescribed or complete its entire course, they should inform the physician so that she/he can prescribe a shorter and simpler course.
Additionally, patients should abstain from sex during treatment and for seven to ten days after they have completed the course of antibiotics as well as until the sores have healed completely. Experts suggest retesting after about three months to rule out the presence of reinfection.
- Antiviral drugs: treatment of STDs caused due to viruses are treated using antiviral drugs. For example; patients diagnosed with herpes or HIV are advised to use antiviral drugs.
A daily suppressive therapy using an antiviral drug can help patients have a lower risk of recurrence of herpes. However, it is still possible for the patients to transmit the infection to their partner during sexual intercourse. Hence, the physician may also advise the partner of the infected patient to undergo antiviral therapy.
While there are no medications to cure AIDS (Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) caused due to HIV (Human immunodeficiency Virus) infection completely, patients may be prescribed antiviral drugs to keep the infection in check for several years.
Regular treatment of patients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS using antiviral drugs can help to control the multiplication of the virus thereby slowing down the progress of the infection. However, patients may still carry the virus and transmit the infection to the partner. Hence, couples need to follow appropriate precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the infection.
Patients are advised to seek treatment for HIV and other STDs at the earliest once the diagnosis is made. The sooner they start the treatment, the more effective the results will be..
Taking an antiviral medication exactly as recommended would help to heal the sores, relieve the symptoms, and reduce the viral count thereby reducing the risk of serious complications.
Partner notification and preventive treatment
Patients suffering from a STD are required to inform their sexual partners about the diagnosis as they are likely to spread the infection during sexual intercourse.
They should inform their current sexual partners as well as other partners they have had intimate sexual contact with over the past one year. The symptoms of most STDs do not become evident for a period ranging from a few weeks to months. Hence, even if the current or past partners seem to be in good health and do not have any evident symptoms, they must be informed about the diagnosis so that they can get tested. In case, the tests show positive results, the partners should also seek appropriate treatment for the infection.
Guidelines of partner notification
All states have different guidelines related to the disclosure of the diagnosis of STDs. Most states require certain STDs to be reported to the concerned health departments. Public health departments usually employ expert disease intervention specialists who can provide help for notifying the partners.
Official yet confidential notification to the partner can help to limit the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly syphilis and HIV. This practice can also steer the high-risk patients toward counseling and early diagnosis and treatment.
Patients who have had a STD once are more likely to contract the same or another infection again in the future. Hence, partner notification is essential to reduce the incidence of reinfection. Patients diagnosed with STDs should follow these guidelines so that they can protect the health of others while also avoiding reinfection in the future.
Here are some more recommendations that patients should follow when diagnosed with STDs
Recommendations for patients diagnosed with a STD
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Pregnant women diagnosed with STDs should contact a physician to learn more about the risk of transmitting the infection to the baby. Certain types of STDs such as HIV, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, chlamydia, and genital herpes are known to spread to the fetus or infant during pregnancy and labor.
STDs in pregnant women may also increase the risk of complications such as premature labor and infection in the uterus. Some STDs like syphilis may cross the placental barrier and infect the fetus.
Women should also be aware of the risk of transmission of the infection to the baby during breastfeeding. Women who have HIV should refrain from breastfeeding to prevent the spread of infection to the baby.
STDs like trichomoniasis require women to wait until the course of the antibiotic is over before they can start breastfeeding the baby. Women diagnosed with syphilis or herpes can breastfeed provided they do not have active sores on any part of the breasts.
How to reduce the spread of STDs?
Men and women should learn effective ways to reduce the spread of STDs in the future. Here are some precautionary measures recommended to reduce the spread of STDs:
- Avoiding any form of sexual contact
- The use of barrier methods of contraception such as condoms during vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
- Avoiding multiple sexual partners
- Discussing each other’s sexual history before intimate contact with a new partner
- Avoiding the use of contaminated needles
- Receiving vaccination for hepatitis B and HPV
It can be common for men and women to experience emotional challenges when they are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease. In most cases, the emotional upheaval is associated with a feeling of guilt, shame, and even helplessness. Questions may also be raised about the source of the infection and the trust issues in the relationship especially when the infection is contracted through the partner.
Hence, patients are advised to undergo individual and family counseling to prevent mental stress, strained relations, and more serious complications such as depression.
Taking proper treatment can help to relieve the symptoms of STDs and ensure a faster recovery of patients. At the same time, individual and family counseling also forms an integral part of the management of sexually transmitted diseases.
Adequate precautionary measures must be taken to prevent the recurrence of the same or of other sexually transmitted infections. Comprehensive management of STDs keeping in mind the physical and emotional symptoms can help patients and their partners to stay healthy while enjoying safe sex.
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