Straight, No Chaser: Living With An Incurable Sexually Transmitted Infection
You’ve requested it, and it’s only fair. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STDs, STIs). It’s reasonable to discuss living with an STD. The first point to appreciate is most STDs can be treated; that’s been discussed at length in several previous posts. Next you should understand that those that can’t be treated don’t represent a death sentence. STDs are simply diseases. To be clear you will need to make adjustments to you life, and this Straight, No Chaser will discuss those.
Even if you were irresponsible in acquiring an STD, you must be learn to be responsible in managing it once it’s known that you have an incurable STD such as herpes, HPV or HIV/AIDS. Refer back to the Straight, No Chaser Comprehensive Safe Sex Guide for details.
There are important differences between managing different diseases. Putting HIV/AIDS aside momentarily, consider the following general considerations regarding herpes or HPV.
- You can live a mostly normal life with these conditions. Unless you’re in the midst of a herpes outbreak or are showing the warts of HPV, you will appear normal. Every other positive attribute you possess will still be intact. Use that positivity to help you through.
- It’s only fair and reasonable to have a conversation with existing and/or new sexual partners about your condition. You and your partner should meet with your physician to discuss risks and possibilities. You will want this information to make informed decisions about what you choose to do moving forward.
- If you are showing symptoms or in the midst of an outbreak, you should avoid any sexual activity.
- Unless you’re in the midst of an outbreak, you can have sex. Remember that these STDs can be transmitted even in the absence of symptoms, so please protect yourself and your partner.
A really reasonable way to think about having sex with an incurable STD is to think about kissing someone with a cold or the flu. You could still do it, but you’re likely to be at risk. When the symptoms aren’t there, your partner could still be a carrier of the disease and could still give you the disease. Your better course of action is to wait until all symptoms are gone and then still be careful.
You have to simultaneously appreciate that your life will be approximately normal, even as you’ve had a significant change. Even as you get about living the rest of your life, you should be aware of risks that can cause an outbreak.
- Of course intercourse is a very risky activity. Couples who have been exposed to one STD are likely to have been exposed to multiple. You don’t want to “ping-pong” diseases between you and your partner. Follow the recommended guidelines for having and avoiding sex based on your symptoms.
- Surgery, trauma or any cause of a reduced immune system can produce an outbreak. If you’re diabetic, on steroids, have lupus or other conditions that affect the immune system, have a conversation with your physician.
At some point, you’ll get over the guilt and shame associated with having an untreatable STD and start focusing on the rest of your life. Be sure to live that life so it’s not causing more damage along the way; out of sight can’t be out of mind with an incurable STD. Be especially mindful of your risks of giving your partner your disease, both from specific acts of intercourse and from other sexual activities besides intercourse. Remember, these diseases all affect more than sex; managing these diseases is managing your health.
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