If you think you might have an STI (previously known as an STD), the first step is to get tested. It is best to go to your own doctor for testing, because he or she will know your medical history and will be best able to advise and treat you. If you are not comfortable talking to your own doctor, you may choose to visit another clinic, or check to see what STI testing services are available in your area by checking your local yellow pages, under "Birth Control Information Services" or "Clinics: medical."
Since STIs may occur in groups, the doctor will probably test for a number of different infections. This may involve taking swabs of the genital area, taking fluid samples from sores, and getting urine or blood samples. If you have been infected, you will need to tell all of the people you have had sex with, so that they can also be tested and treated. Although this can be difficult to do, it is important that your sexual partner(s) be informed. If they are infected and don't receive the proper treatment, serious complications may develop and they may unknowingly pass on the infection to others.
The next step is treatment. Some STIs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can be cured with antibiotics. Others, like HIV, HPV, herpes, and hepatitis B, are caused by viruses and cannot be cured. However, they can be treated. Treatments for viruses include pills, creams, freezing or burning of the affected area, and surgery. Be sure to finish your full course of treatment, even if you begin to feel better. Find out when it will be safe to start having sex again, and talk to your doctor about ways to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections in the future.
If your STI cannot be cured, you will need to talk about this with your sexual partner(s). To prevent infection of your partner(s), you will need to use condoms and dental dams when having sex. For some STIs, there may be other steps you can take to avoid infecting your partner - check with your doctor. In some cases, couples where one partner is infected may decide to risk infection of the other partner, especially if they are trying to get pregnant. If this is the case, you should talk to your doctor. Even if your STI can be cured, it is important to protect yourself and others from being infected again.
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