If You Think You Have an STI (STD)

Treating a sexually transmitted infection (STI) early limits the problems it can cause and helps prevent its spread to others. An STI is also known as a sexually transmitted disease (STD). If you have an STI, get treated right away. Ask your partner to be tested, too. Then avoid sex until you’ve finished treatment and your healthcare provider says it’s OK to have sex again.

Follow your treatment plan

Treatment depends on the type of STI you have. Common treatments include injections and oral pills or liquids. Creams and gels can be applied to sores or warts caused by certain STIs. Follow the tips below:

  • Get new treatment for each new STI.

  • Don’t use old medicine, even for the same STI. Use medicines as directed.

  • Don’t share medicine unless instructed to do so by your healthcare provider or clinic.

Talk to your partner

If you have an STI, it’s your duty to tell all your recent partners so they can be tested and treated. This is one important way to prevent the disease from being spread. Telling a partner that you have an STI can be hard. You may be embarrassed, angry, or afraid. It’s often unclear who had the STI first. So try not to place blame. Your healthcare provider may offer some advice on how to start.

Man and woman in kitchen talking.

Prevent future problems

Even after you’ve been treated, you can still be infected again. This is a common problem. It can happen if a partner passes the STI back to you. To prevent this, your partner or partners must be tested. He or she may also need treatment. After treatment, go to any scheduled follow-up visits. Then prevent future problems with safer sex. Limit your number of partners and always use a latex condom.

Diagnosing STIs

Your healthcare provider will take a health history and examine you. During your health history, you will be asked about your sex habits and health history. You may also be asked about drug use. Give honest answers. Your healthcare provider will then check your body for signs of STIs. He or she also may do one or more of the following tests:

  • Fluid may be swabbed from sores. Samples also may be taken from the vagina, penis, mouth, or rectum. The samples are then tested for STIs.

  • Blood or urine samples may be taken. They are checked for viruses or bacteria that cause STIs.

  • For women, cells from the cervix are checked for signs of cancer and the genital wart virus (human papillomavirus, or HPV). This is called a Pap smear, and is often now done along with HPV testing. If cell changes are found, or a high-risk type of HPV is found, a magnifying scope may be used to take a closer look (colposcopy). In men and women, a Pap smear may be done on the anus to check for HPV-linked cancer or precancerous changes. This is done by a healthcare provider gently swabbing cells from the lining of the anus, and then sending the sample to be looked at in the lab. If there are signs of abnormality, you may need more testing.

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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