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Living with an STI

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) caused by viruses can be treated and managed with medication, but medication does not clear them from your body. These viruses include HIV, herpes, HPV, and hepatitis B.

If you have one of these STIs, you may be wondering about how this will affect your sex life. Some common concerns include how to manage symptoms and how to talk to partners. Some people feel sad, angry, fearful or uncertain about what this will mean for them. If you are having some of these concerns or feelings, it can help to get more information and find emotional support. Check out the resources the bottom of the herpes and HIV pages on this website.

Some things to remember

  • STIs are very common and the majority of people who are sexually active will get one or more STI in their life; having an STI is not a reflection of the kind of person you are
  • You can still have relationships and sex; practicing safer sex can reduce the chance of passing STIs to partners
  • There are medications that can help to reduce symptoms; talk to a health care provider about your options

Sex, relationships and living with an STI

STIs can be passed to a partner even when you don’t have any symptoms. Some STIs, such as herpes and genital warts, are passed by skin-to-skin contact. While external (male) condoms provide good protection against these infections, they don't cover all areas. Barriers such as dental dams or internal (female) condoms can cover a larger area.

Do you have to tell your partner you have an STI?

When, if, and how you tell partners about having an STI is usually a personal choice. While it may be hard to talk about having an STI, it may be important for your partners health. Some untreated STIs can cause serious health problems.Telling a partner that you have an STI can be difficult, but it can also be a chance to talk about safer sex. It can show your partner you care about their health and allow them to think about how they want to protect themselves.

If you choose not to tell your sexual partners, then having safer sex can lower the risk of passing on the STI. If you think you may have passed an STI to your partner, there are some different ways that you can let them know.

If you have HIV, under criminal law you could be charged for not telling your partner before having penetrative sex or oral sex, or other activities that could expose them to HIV. The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network is a good source for information about legal issues related to HIV.

Your partner has an STI: What does this mean for you?

If your partner has told you that they have an STI, you may have a lot of questions about what this means for you. Some things you can do for yourself and your partner are:

  • Get the facts about the STI, how it is passed and prevented; you can explore ways to practice safer sex  while lowering the chances of getting the STI
  • Get tested and treated, if needed; treatment options will depend on the type of STI your partner has.
  • Ask for more time if you are not sure what to think; it can take time to get the information you need and to figure out how you feel

You can find more information on the type of STI your partner has, or get answers from a nurse through Chat or Ask A Question.

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STI, STD, HIV, genital warts, herpes, HPV, partner, prevention
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