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Living with an STD

There are over 65 million Americans who currently have an STD.

Living with an STD can be tough, especially if you have an STD that has no cure. Finding out you have one can lead to lots of tough and awkward questions, like:
  • How will I tell my partner? Or my past partners? And what will their reaction be?
  • If I have an incurable STD, how will I tell my future partners?
  • What will my family and friends think?
  • What kind of symptoms will I get? Will it be painful? Will I become infertile, sterile, or could I even die?
  • Will treatment be painful? Difficult? Costly?
It’s easier to talk to your partners about STD/HIV after you’ve come to terms with it yourself. Give yourself time to work through it. If you are well informed and know the facts about STDs or HIV, you’ll be more confident and at-ease when discussing the situation. You can always call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) to talk to someone personally and to get brochures and information to give your partners.

If you're nervous about talking to your partners, here are a few tips to help you gain confidence:
  • Try role-playing with a trusted friend or in front of a mirror. Practice saying the words out loud.
  • Choose a neutral setting during a time when you won't be distracted or interrupted. Be natural.
  • Speak with confidence. You are not lecturing or confessing. You're sharing personal information.
  • Remain calm. If you're upset, a partner might think it's worse than it is. Remember your delivery and body language becomes your message, too.
  • Expect your partner to be accepting and supportive. People usually act as you expect them to.
While some people may overreact, some won't bat an eye. However they react, it’s out of your control. Try not to be surprised and give them time to think about what you're telling them and asking them. Try as much as possible to be prepared for being told 'thanks but no thanks'. It's never easy to be rejected; it's human nature to take it personally, especially when it's because of something as personal as your sexuality.

Whatever happens, try to be flexible. This is about sexual health -- it's not a "whodunit" mystery. Keep your perspective: syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea symptoms are annoying but harmless if you get proper treatment. If left untreated, not only can these infections wreak havoc on your body, but they can make it much easier to transmit HIV from sex partner to partner. Take care of yourself - talk to your partners today so they can get treatment and protect themselves – otherwise it’s possible that you could get reinfected because the disease is still in your network of friends and in your community.

You're not the only person who's having to make these decisions. There are programs all over the country where people come together to support each other and learn from each others’ experiences. They may be able to help you work through some of the issues you'll be facing.

People I may want to tell that I'm positive

You may be thinking about telling people you had unprotected sex with before you knew you were positive. Telling sex partners after the fact is not easy, but, it's a law in Idaho that those who are HIV positive must tell their partners before they have sex, so it’s something that must be done. You might want to ask them if they're already positive. If they're not, you might be able to help and support them through the process of getting tested.

Some people don't tell their friends and families because they don't want them to worry or they're afraid of being rejected. By not telling, you could be cheating yourself out of an important source of love and support.

The main thing to know about HIV and the workplace is that you're entitled to protections under federal law. You can't lose your job just because you have HIV. It's often good to tell your supervisor, since you might need time off for doctor's appointments or other health reasons. And you may want to tell a workmate that you're close to; it never hurts to have a supportive friend in a place where you spend so much of your time.

Roommates can see you at your most vulnerable. So even if you're not close, you might ask yourself if it will stress you out more not to disclose your status to your roommates than it would to let them know what's going on.

I'm not comfortable telling the people I had unprotected sex with. What are my options?

Through this service offered at most public health clinics, trained health workers notify your partners regarding their possible exposure to HIV infection without ever identifying you. For local testing and notification services, visit

An internet service to notify your sexual partners online that they may have been exposed to HIV or an STD. It's free and anonymous. No information is reported to any government or private agency.

I’m positive, it feels like it’s a bigger deal for me

Once finding out they're positive, many people think that their sex lives are going to be turned upside down or even stop completely. That doesn't have to happen. But you are going to have to deal with the fact that you've got a viral STD or HIV whenever you're in a sexual situation. It's a good thing to be able to navigate the situation with more freedom and less anxiety. One thing many people who are positive say is that the more comfortable they are with being positive, the less they worry about what other people think of them and about being turned down sexually.

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