Couple holding hands and breaking stigma of living with an STD

Living with an STD: breaking the stigma

Medically reviewed on March 28, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Receiving an STD diagnosis isn’t easy, but it’s more common than you might think. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will contract an STD in their lifetime, with almost 68 million STD cases in circulation every day [1].

To put this in perspective, 2x more Americans will test positive for an STD than will experience a food allergy in their lifetime [2].

As common as STDs are, the stigma around them is still prevalent in the US. Fortunately, shedding light on what it means to live with an STD can transform the narrative and foster a culture of sexual health, wellness, and vitality that everyone can partake in.

Below, we outline four ways people living with an STD can move forward after their diagnosis and create a wellness plan geared toward holistic sexual health.

Ways to manage your life with an STD

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an STD, your initial concerns are likely health-related:

  • How will this impact my sexual and overall health?
  • What can I do to manage it?

No matter what kind of STD you have, the following four key steps can help after receiving your diagnosis.

Start getting educated

The first step in learning to manage your STD is to learn the facts.

STDs exist on a continuum of treatability. The most easily treatable STDs are [3]:

  • Chlamydia, a bacterial infection that typically affects the cervix, urethra, and rectum. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to eliminate the infection [4].
  • Gonorrhea, a bacterial infection that can affect the urethra, penis, vagina, and anus. Antibiotics are commonly used to treat a gonorrhea infection [5].
  • Herpes, a recurrent viral infection that isn’t curable, but is easily controlled with prescription medication [6].

Other STDs aren’t curable but are often treatable and manageable by appropriate medical interventions. These include:

  • HPV
  • Hepatitis
  • Syphilis

It’s important to understand that all STDs are treatable, even if they are not all curable, and countless people living with an STD can meet their sexual health needs while pursuing a fulfilling life.

To learn more about your sexual health, connect with credible informational resources. The best places to learn about how STDs fit in with your broader picture of health are:

  • The National Library of Medicine
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Your healthcare provider

Consider your intimate relationships

STDs are an inherently intimate type of condition, so it’s no surprise that healing from them can benefit from a relational approach.

Here are 3 things you can do to protect your partner(s) and build your relationships even stronger:

  • Let them know – For many, notifying their partner(s) of their diagnosis can be an emotional, sensitive, or fraught process. Try to remember that your primary objective is to do your part to protect them from harm. Some STDs can have severe health consequences if left untreated, which means letting your partner(s) know as soon as possible is the best way to keep them safe.
  • Have sex safely – Latex condoms are a reliable way to reduce the risk of contracting both STDs and HIV/AIDS. That’s why healthcare professionals recommend using a condom if you get intimate.
  • Connect in new ways – Human beings are versatile, adaptable creatures. By opening up to your partner(s) about your STD, exploring new activities together, and supporting each other throughout the process, you may find your bond closer and stronger than it was before.

Adapt your healthcare plan

Depending on the particular STD you’re living with, your sexual health status may put you at risk of developing related conditions if your STD is left untreated.

For instance, between 10-15% of people with uteruses who have untreated chlamydia can develop pelvic inflammatory disorder (PID). If untreated, PID can result in infertility [8].

To that end, establishing a competent, compassionate health insurance plan will mean the world for managing your STD.

Regularly testing for STDs, either through your provider or with at-home tests, can vastly improve your and your partner(s)’ health outcomes in the long term. What’s more, it can save you dividends on healthcare expenses, which means you’ll have that much more money, time, and energy to devote to the things that make you feel happy and whole [9].

Take care of the whole you

If you’ve prioritized your knowledge, your relationships, and your health care, there’s one last area to focus on: you.

Sexual health, and health in general, is not limited to prescriptions, tests, or supplements. Consider other ways you can take care of your well-being, such as the following:

  • Take up a new sport or physical activity
  • Make time for an old hobby that makes you feel like you
  • Treat yourself to self-care activities
  • Prioritize your mental health with support groups or 1:1 therapy

Remember, living with an STD—or any other physical condition—will undoubtedly push you to make some changes to your physical health and lifestyle. But no matter your diagnosis, the person who gets to decide whether these changes are an evolution is you.

Take control of your sexual health with Everlywell

Everlywell is dedicated to reducing STD stigma by providing affordable STI Testing for people of all genders.

Our at-home tests are also delivered directly to your home so you can safely and privately learn your sexual health status. Your data stays protected and evaluated by CLIA-certified labs for clinically validated results with a rapid turnaround.

Whether you’re prioritizing your sexual health or taking the reins on your overall wellness, our tests and approach are designed to put your health care into your own hands. Learn more about our comprehensive range of at-home test kits today.

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1. CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed March 28, 2022.

2. Facts and Statistics. Food Allergy Research & Education. URL. Accessed March 28, 2022.

3. The list of curable and incurable STDs. STD-GOV. URL. Accessed March 28, 2022.

4. Chlamydia. STD-GOV. URL. Accessed March 28, 2022.

5. Gonorrhea. STD-GOV. URL. Accessed March 28, 2022.

6. Herpes. STD-GOV. URL. Accessed March 28, 2022.

7. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). Center for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed March 28, 2022.

8. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) - STDs & Infertility. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed March 28, 2022.

9. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) - Prevention. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed March 28, 2022.

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