Using a condom is the best way to reduce the possibility of acquiring STIs. But not all of us use them every time. Whether you do or you don’t, STIs are relatively common. But that doesn’t mean finding out you have one should be a hullabaloo. Here are five tips to follow if you think you’ve been exposed to an STI.
1. Keep calm and carry on
You’re not alone. For just the men in Australia, there are more than 40,000 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis (not to mention other known STIs) caused by pesky viruses or bacteria every year. And they’re just the ones that do get diagnosed thanks to the gents who go for sexual health tests.
Wondering if you have picked up an STI may cause a bit of anxiety, but keep calm — even in that event, it’s all quickly and easily fixed. Besides, most of the time, most guys don’t experience any noticeable symptoms anyway. Zip. Nothing. There might not be any gunk in your junk or drama down under to give you a clue you might have picked something up. Which makes regular testing all the more important for you and your partners.
2. Book in for a checkup
Don’t delay, test today. Whether you’ve noticed something yourself, got told by a buddy, or received an anonymous notification, go and get yourself checked out as soon as possible. Although some might say ignorance is bliss, trust us, ignorance can be brutal. Untreated STIs can result in harmful health complications. Testing and treating as soon as possible is far better than jeopardising your long-term wellbeing.
Some testing locations are free, so you don’t have to worry about being out of pocket. Some places offer free condoms too, so you just fill your pockets up instead! At some clinics you won’t need Medicare, and in some, you don’t even have to give your real name if you’d prefer not to. And rest assured that all testing is completely confidential.
“Remember, worrying about possibly feeling embarrassed for two minutes doesn’t damage your long-term wellbeing — leaving an STI untreated will though.”
Depending on your situation, you may be offered tests as well as immediate treatment. Discuss what’s best for you with the doctor you see. And it’s OK to be totally up front and honest with them — you’re unlikely to be the first, or the last dude who does dudes they’ve encountered. Healthcare professionals aren’t there to judge you; they’re there to help you get the best possible outcomes for your health. Remember, worrying about possibly feeling embarrassed for two minutes doesn’t damage your long-term wellbeing —leaving an STI untreated will though.
Oh! And while you’re waiting to see a doctor…
3. Keep it in your pants
Abstain from sex?! Honestly… for some of us, this might be the worst part of the whole experience. Like a tomcat that prefers to stay indoors, as soon as you know you’re not allowed to go out, you might really want to! But resist any temptation to get frisky with others and resort to a bit of DIY satisfaction with a five knuckle shuffle in the interim.
You’ll be good to go again once you either receive a clear set of results from your tests, or usually around a week after completing treatment. Be sure to ask your doctor for their recommendation as not all STIs come with the same abstinence period after treatment. Where the STI is located in your body can make a difference too.
Keeping it in your pants for a short while might suck, but it’s not for long and it is for the greater good. If you do and it means anything, we applaud you for being a part of the solution and preventing potential onward transmission of STIs.
4. Complete your treatment
Treat yourself. You’re worth it! Fully completing any course of treatment is super important. Completing treatment will help ensure you completely get rid of that opportunistic infection, whereas not finishing the full course risks helping STIs become resistant to treatment. And nobody wants that.
“If you’re getting laid there are ways you can help prevent STIs, but there is still a chance of being exposed to them, even if you use a condom every time.”
Not all STI treatments require daily medication. Some can be fixed with a jab and/or a few pills taken just once. But if you do get prescribed medication to take each day, be sure to follow your doctor’s orders on how and when to take it. If you’re given a script, the pharmacist at the chemist can offer helpful advice too.
If you’re not sure you’ll remember to take your pills, keeping them somewhere prominent, or alongside other things you use daily help — next to your toothbrush, the toaster or even stuck to your fridge door. And with the wonders of modern technology, why don’t you set a discreet reminder on your phone, laptop, tablet, watch, whatever? You’re smart. You got this.
5. Let a bro know
Go on, be a good sport and tell a fella. Notifying sexual partners about any STIs you might have picked up gives them the opportunity to go and get checked out and treated if necessary. What they choose to do with the information is up to them, but at least you’ve empowered them to take action and be in charge of their own health. And isn’t that what you’d want if you’d been exposed?
Many of us recognise that managing STIs is just a normal part of having a sex life — if you’re getting laid there are ways you can help prevent STIs, but there is still a chance of being exposed to them, even if you use a condom every time. We don’t believe feeling ashamed about it has to be a part of the experience, but know you’re not alone if you do.
If you’re not comfortable telling someone else, there’s a free and anonymous text message service you can use to get the message to them instead.