How to Have a Sex Life After Being Diagnosed With An STI

A few years ago, I was feeling myself (and I mean my vagina), and I found a lump. I inspected the lump with a mirror, and what I saw frightened me. So I did what most do when struck with fear: visited the WebMD Symptom Checker. After hours on the web, I was convinced I had herpes or vulvodynia or a prolapsed uterus. Finally, I smartened up, and I paid a visit to my gynecologist, who laughed when she said, “It’s just an infected ingrown hair, Sujeiry.”

But, what if it wasn’t? The Centers for Disease Control and Infection reports that there are 19.7 million new STIs diagnosed each year in the United States. Having an STI can affect our overall health, self-esteem and romantic relationships, but it doesn’t mean you must become a monja. Here’s how to have a sex life after being diagnosed with an STI:

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1. After STD: Get Rid Of Guilt

Get rid of the guilt: According to Dr. Megan Fleming, a sex therapist and clinical psychologist, having an STD doesn’t have to ruin your sex life. However, many people with incurable STIs, like herpes, feel ashamed. “Herpes continues to have a stigma associated with it in our culture,” Dr. Fleming said. "But I've had clients, now in their 40s, who got herpes in their early 20s, and few male partners have ever even wanted to use a condom.”

Simply put, you may find a partner that won't be afraid of you because of your STI. 

2. After STD: Sex Outbreak

Beware of sex during an outbreak: Many people with STDs don't display any symptoms. However, if you do experience an outbreak at any point in your life, refrain from sex. “The most significant risk for infection is during an outbreak,” Dr. Fleming explained. "But it's also important to know that asymptomatic shedding (no symptoms) can still transmit the virus.” So be aware of your symptoms before getting busy — and always practice safe sex!

 

3. After STD: Tell Your Partner

Tell your sex partner: In relationships, we must communicate honestly — especially when it comes to sex. Jenelle Marie, a rep for PositiveSingles.com, the largest dating community for those with STDs and herpes, advises anyone with an STI to inform their new partner before putting them at risk. That’s “before you engage in sexual activities with someone ,” she said.

What if you’re not ready to speak your truth? “It's entirely up to the individual how long they wait,” Jenelle added. “Some like to tell people up front before they've established a connection. Others choose to wait until they trust the individual to divulge sensitive information.” 

4. After STD: Discuss Best Methods

Discuss best safe sex methods: Communication is key! We should always discuss safe sex methods with our partners, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with an STD. “In order to decide what methods are best, discussing risk and ways to reduce risk is a good way to determine if there are medications that can help,” Jenelle explained. "If there are barrier methods that a partner might like to incorporate (condoms, dams, lube, etc.), and if there are any other prevention strategies that would help reduce risk of transmission.”

Once you've covered your bases and you've both made an informed decision, you should enjoy sex. Because an STD shouldn’t destroy your sex life — or send you running to a monastery.