"For me, I think that contracting the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) was ultimately an empowering experience. I’ve used it to get some real, solid information about safer sex." (Female, 32, HPV)
Discovering that you have HPV or STDs can have an impact on how you see yourself. But it can also be empowering. With the right information and support, there is life after a positive STD screening test result.
Many people who have been diagnosed with an STD describe feelings of panic, anxiety, shame, guilt and stress. They also report feeling ‘dirty’ and stigmatised. Questions like ‘How will I tell my partner?’ and ‘What will my friends think?’ run through their minds.
It is normal to feel this way and to ask these questions. If you have been diagnosed with having HPV or an STD, give yourself time to process things and gather all the STD information you need to manage the condition.
Write down questions for a doctor or counsellor, collect printed pamphlets or brochures at your nearest clinic, refer to credible medical websites, or contact sexual health toll-free call centres.
Not all STDs can be cured, but if they are diagnosed in time they can all be treated to prevent serious damage to the body. Visit a doctor to get the treatment you need.
Human papilloma virus (HPV)
The virus itself cannot be cured but some of the problems that HPV causes can be treated. For example, genital warts can be treated with medication. If HPV has caused changes in cervical cells, a doctor will explain treatment options to ensure that you are protected from cervical cancer.
Antibiotics are used to treat chlamydia. If a test for chlamydia comes back positive, you should take the treatment even though you may not be showing any symptoms.
This type of infection is also treated with antibiotics. It’s important to get treatment as soon as possible to prevent damage to your reproductive system. Some strains of gonorrhoea are resistant to certain kinds of antibiotics, so you will need to work with your doctor to make sure the treatment you are taking has worked.
HIV is not curable, but it is treatable. Treatment works by keeping the viral load in check with drugs called antiretrovirals. Many people who are infected with HIV live very long, productive lives.
It is not uncommon for people diagnosed with an STD to feel depressed or anxious and a counsellor will help you manage these feelings. They may also ask you some questions about your sexual behaviours and make recommendations on how you can avoid future infections or prevent your partner from becoming infected.
They should also be getting screening and treatment.
A positive diagnosis for HPV or STDs may initially be difficult to process, but the right treatment plan and a counsellor’s advice will go a long way to restoring your confidence and your health.
Danielle C. Newton and Marita P. McCabe. 2008. Sexually Transmitted Infections: Impact on Individuals and Their Relationships. Journal of health psychology. 13: 864
World Health Organization, Dept. of Reproductive Health and Research. Global incidence and prevalence of selected curable sexually transmitted infections – 2008. http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/rtis/stisestimates/en/ Accessed 13 July 2014.
American Academy of Family Physicians. National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, CDC. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Hepatitis B Foundation.
Idaho department of health and welfare. 2012. Living with an STD. http://www.nakedtruth.idaho.gov/living-with-an-std.aspx. Accessed 13 July 2014.