Let’s face it, STDs are pretty damn common. In 2016 alone, over 2 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were reported in the US. It is even estimated that 50% of sexually active people will get a STD by age 25. Thankfully, the majority of diagnosed STDs are curable. Simply pop some pills or get a shot, wait a few days, don’t have sex, get retested, and all should be clear.
But for some of us, everything is not so cut and dry after a diagnosis of herpes, hepatitis B, HPV, or HIV (The 4-H’s). Unfortunately, there is no cure for these infections; BUT they are treatable and manageable. However, ‘treatable’ and ‘manageable’ doesn’t mean much when there is so much stigma surrounding these infections. We tend to view people living with one of the 4-H’s as dirty, nasty, promiscuous social pariahs. They are the ‘untouchables’ and we don’t intentionally date them. We unfairly label them as undeserving of romantic love, affection, and intimacy.
Because of these circumstances, most people aware of their status don’t wear it on their chests. They are typically careful about to whom, when, and how they disclose their positive diagnosis. Revealing that they have an incurable STD to a potential sexual partner can be scary and anxiety-inducing and leaves them vulnerable to judgement, shame, and guilt. So it helps to not be a complete a**hole if a potential partner trusts you enough to share their status. Besides, there is a better course of action.
Here are five tips to help you navigate your situation if you find that your partner has an incurable STD.
1. Educate Yourself THEN Make a Decision
First, don’t freak out. Second, hop on a site like CDC.gov and the STD. While doing your homework, make sure to pay attention to key facts such as:
- How is the STD spread from person to person?
- How easily is it spread?
- What does the it do to the body?
- What are the symptoms?, and
- What its the standard course of treatment for infected individuals?
Once you are armed with the facts, you can then make an informed decision about whether or not you wish to continue the relationship.
2. If You Decide to Leave, Don’t Be a Jerk
Telling someone about a chronic or incurable condition takes courage. In turn, the last thing they need is lecture on how ‘dirty’, ‘nasty’, or disgusting they are. STDs can happen to anyone despite their the sexual history or behavior; remember, it only takes one unprotected encounter to catch an STD. And it goes without saying that you should not put the person’s business on blast. There is no need to tell all your friends or write a lengthy Facebook post about the situation.
I know some may ask, “What if they knew they had an incurable STD, didn’t tell me, and we had sex?” If you find yourself in a situation where a person knowingly and purposefully exposed you to an STD without full disclosure, there may be legal action you can take depending upon your state of residence.
3. If You Stay, Get Tested and Do it Often!
If you decide to stay and give the relationship a try, make sure you get tested and get tested often. You want to probably visit you healthcare provider or local clinic every six months to stay on top of your sexual health and status. Also, remember to do visual checks down below for any unusual bumps or sores. STDs such as herpes and genital warts (caused by HPV) can be spread by skin to skin contact and are not typically screened for in regular STD tests.
4. Use Condoms Each and Every Time You Have Sex! (Oral Sex Too!)
No explanation is really needed here….
5. If Your Partner is Having an Outbreak, Don’t Have Sex!
If your partner has any visible sores or warts, don’t have sex (including oral) until the outbreak has been treated and cleared. Remember, herpes and genital warts can be passed by skin-to-skin contact even is a condom is used. During these times, look for other ways to express affection and display intimacy.
In all, dating a person with an incurable STD adds a unique dimension to the relationship. However, it’s not impossible. With careful planning and preparation, a happy, healthy, and sexually fulfilling relationship can be achieved.