Life is a contact sport. Everything in life, whether it’s sex or downhill skiing means accepting a certain element of risk.
In the case of sex, the risks includes the possibility of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. You can mitigate those risks through care and preparation, but nothing in life is 100% safe. Sometimes bad shit happens. Sometimes it’s because you’re young and stupid. Sometimes it’s because of ignorance. Sometimes it’s because you had a bad roll of the dice.
Regardless of how it came about, STDs happen. And if and when they happen to you, you need to man up, accept what happened, get your shit together and go to a goddamned doctor.
The shame and the perceived stigma of contracting an STD can keep people – otherwise intelligent, level-headed people – from actually facing up to the truth. A number of people will actually avoid getting tested in order to maintain a level of plausible deniability… after all, if you don’t get it confirmed, you can’t really be sure you have it, right?
These people are idiots.
By the time they’re 24, nearly one third of sexually active adults will have contracted an STD of one kind or another. Getting an STD doesn’t have to be a big deal, provided that you actually do something about it.
Obligatory Disclaimer: Dr. NerdLove is not really a doctor. This isn’t going to be a comprehensive list of STIs or the treatments and you should direct any questions you have to a medical professional.
Avoid Getting an STD in the First Place.
It seems like this should be obvious, but the best thing to do is avoid getting an STD in the first place. That means condoms. All the time. Every time. No using one and taking it of in the middle, no using one the first time and then leaving it off for the next couple of go-rounds, no continuing fucking if you think the condom broke because obviously it’s God’s will that you aren’t supposed to wear one.
And yes, I have heard every excuse in the world about why someone didn’t think condoms were necessary. Again: those people are idiots.
If you’re fucking, you wear a condom. If you’re lucky enough to have a threesome, you use a different condom with each partner. There are no exceptions to this rule. No other form of birth control is going to prevent disease. The only other reliable way to avoid STDs is abstinence, and let’s be honest: if you’re reading my site, you’re trying to get laid.
Barebacking, raw-dogging, whatever you want to call it, is off the table if and only if you and your partner are mutually (and totally) monogamous – not monagamish – for at least a year and have both had the full spectrum of STD testing… preferably twice.
Get Tested. Often.
If you’re sexually active – and for these purposes, this means oral sex, anal sex, mutual masturbation and/or any parts of you going into them or vice versa, not just penetration – you owe it to yourself and to your partner(s) to get tested on a regular. The more partners you have, the more often you should get tested; higher numbers means higher risk, especially since you don’t know whom else they’ve been with or what errors in judgement they – or their partners – may have made.
If you even suspect you have an STD, you need to get tested as soon as possible, even if those odd symptoms have disappeared. Some STDs are frequently asymptomatic in men – chlamydia and HPV, for example – and others will present and then fade away, even as the infection is still in your system. Some sexually transmitted diseases will show up on test results relatively soon after being exposed; others can take weeks or even months. You should also remember that the standard battery of STD tests don’t always include tests for herpes, HPV or Hepatitis B, and you might have to request those specifically.
Some won’t recommend being tested for syphilis or herpes unless either you’re symptomatic or know that you’ve had positive contact; again, speak with your doctor about their policy on this.
If you don’t have a regular physician or you would otherwise prefer not to go to your GP, Planned Parenthood offers STD screenings and treatments and can work with you on the price – especially if you don’t have insurance.
Gonorrhea and Chlamydia
These are two of the most common sexually transmitted diseases; so common in fact, that people diagnosed with one frequently also have the other. Both can frequently be asymptomatic in men, leading many to be unaware that they even have it in the first place. If you know you have had positive contact, you need to be treated, even if you aren’t showing symptoms. Similarly, any partners you may have need to be informed and treated as well.
Fortunately for everybody involved, these are the two most easily treated STDs. Standard treatment is a course of oral antibiotics, sometimes just one or two doses. Because of how often the two diseases will show up at the same time, doctors will prescribe a treatment for both as a matter of routine. The infection clears up after one or two weeks once treatment has started, but during that time you’re still potentially infectious. This means no sex for two weeks. Sorry. Deal with it.
Patients diagnosed with gonorrhea are frequently recommended to come in for a follow-up in three months in order to rule out possible re-infections.
Unlike masturbation, this one will make you go blind. Also, Left untreated for long enough, it can damage the brain. Yes, it’s a literal case of sex making you crazy. It presents as a genital sore or rash, usually painless. Symptoms usually show up within three months of the initial infection, so any partners you’ve had within 90 days of your developing the disease will also need to be treated.
Once again however, syphilis is easily curable. Standard treatment is penicillin, usually either injected into the muscle or through an IV drip. Oral antibiotics just don’t seem to work in this case There are some strains that show signs of resistance to penicillin; most physicians will recommend that anyone being treated for syphilis return for follow-up blood tests to confirm that the disease has been eliminated.
Fun fact: Syphilis is the reason why some states require a blood test in order to get a marriage license.