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If you have just found out that you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), you are not alone. The majority of people who are sexually active will get at least one STI in their lifetime.
It’s common to have questions. For more information you can:
- Learn about different types of STIs on this website
- Use this website to ask a question or chat with a nurse
- Look on the internet. There is a lot of information online. Some of it may be helpful and some will be inaccurate, so choose your information sources carefully. We recommend other trustworthy websites like the BC Centre for Disease Control, Sexuality and U, The Body, and CDC Atlanta.
If you find that you have more questions than answers, please contact us and we will try to find the information that you need.
STIs caused by bacteria (gonorrhea, Chlamydia or syphilis) can be treated and cured with antibiotics. It is important to take all the medication as directed to make sure you clear the bacteria from your body. Practicing safer sex will lower the chances of getting the same or another STI in the future.
STIs caused by viruses (herpes, HPV or HIV) cannot be cured, but there are medications that can help with symptoms and lower the chances that the STI is passed on. Practicing safer sex is a good way to protect you and your partners.
What Do I Tell My Partner(s)?
Current and past partners
If you find out that you have a reportable STI like Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis or HIV, it is important to let partners know so that they can get tested and treated. The reason that partners are contacted is to give them the information that they need for their own health care. It is possible to have long term, serious side effects from some untreated STIs. Also, it is important that partners get treated so that you do not get the STI back if you have sex with them again.
The time period for contact is different for each STI. For example, if you have gonorrhea or Chlamydia, anyone you had sex with in the past 60 days is a contact. The time period for HIV is longer. Your health care provider can help you figure out who should be tested.
You have choices about how partners can be told that they need to get tested. You can tell partners yourself or have a health care provider or public health nurse talk to your partner without using your name.
Current and future partners
Some people worry about how viral STIs like herpes, genital warts (HPV) or HIV will affect their life and their sexual partners. Sometimes it is hard to talk about with partners. Some people want to tell partners, while others fear that telling partners will cause problems in their relationship, especially when they have no symptoms or are taking medications to lower the chances of passing on the infection.
When and where you have the conversation about herpes and HPV is a personal choice. HIV is a bit different. HIV is the only STI where the law states you must tell your partners before having sex, when there is a “realistic possibility of transmission”. The possibility of transmission depends on a number of things, including the types of sex you are having, if a condom is used, and how much virus there is in your blood (viral load). Visit the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network website for more information.
I have an STI that can't be cured. What does this mean for my future?
People who find out they have a viral STI such as herpes or HIV may feel many different emotions, from sadness or anger, to relief or indifference. There is no right way to feel.
If you are upset or struggling, it can help to have good information. There are many resources and supports available if you are living with one or more of these infections. You can find a list of resources at the bottom of the herpes and HIV pages on this website. You can also use this website to ask a question or chat with a nurse at the BC Centre for Disease Control.