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Treating & Living with STIs

STIs are very common; most people who are sexually active will get a STI in their lifetime. All STIs can either be treated or managed. If you are living with a STI, you can still have healthy, pleasurable, and fulfilling sexual relationships.

Getting Treatment

Treatment and Management of STIs

Antibiotics are used to cure sexually transmitted infections (STIs) caused by bacteria such as syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.

Antibiotics cannot cure STIs caused by viruses such as herpes simplex (HSV), genital warts (HPV) or HIV.

There are many different types of antibiotics and it is important to get the right antibiotics. It is not a good idea to take medicine from your friends or leftover pills you have at home to treat yourself. With the wrong medication, the bacteria may not be completed cleared from your body.
It is also important to take all of the medication in the way you were told to. When antibiotics are not taken properly, bacteria can continue to grow. They can change or adapt to become resistant to the antibiotic. There is growing concern that the antibiotics we use today may no longer be effective in the future. Taking antibiotics properly helps to reduce resistant bacteria.

Make sure to talk with your health care provider about how to take the antibiotics that you are prescribed.

Talk to your health care provider if you get side effects from the antibiotics or if your symptoms do not clear up.

Check out the STIs and Conditions section for more information about specific STIs and treatment

HealthLink BC – Using Antibiotics Wisely

Managing Some STIs

STIs caused by some 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 infections, 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.

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

We have developed toolkits with more information to address common questions and concerns– check out our Herpes Guide, HPV Guide, as well as our webpage about HIV.

Reportable STIs

Some infections are considered reportable to public health to monitor trends and to help plan programs and services. The STIs that are considered reportable in BC to public health are:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis A, B, and C
  • Syphilis
  • Chancroid

Notifying Partners

Past and Current 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. By telling partner(s) about the infection you can:

  • avoid them passing the infection back to you
  • avoid them from passing the infection on to others
  • give them the chance to take care of their sexual health by getting tested and treated
  • help prevent long-term health problems

Ways to let partners know to get tested for STIs:

  • Tell your partner in person. It can help if you prepare for this conversation and get some ideas for things you can say. We’ve included some tips on how to best start a conversation.
  • Tell your partner with a health care provider present. Make an appointment for both of you together. Your health care provider can help answer any questions that you or your partner might have.
  • Your healthcare provider might be able to tell your partners for you. They can inform them they have been exposed to an STI and need to get tested without giving your name. Not all providers offer this option.
  • Another way to anonymously notify partners is to use an online tool such as this tool developed by HIM, or TellYourPartner.org

Future and Current 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.

If you choose not to tell your sexual partners, then having safer sex can lower the risk of passing on the STI. 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.

Having open conversations with your partner(s) about sexual health can help create respectful, trusting relationships that are healthier for everyone. It can show your partner(s) that you care about their health and allow them to think about how they want to protect themselves.

My partner has an STI

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 STIs and Conditions section of the website, or look through our Answered Questions and FAQs.

Downloadable Guides

Herpes: A Patient’s Guide

This 25-page colour booklet talks about herpes symptoms, transmission, testing and treatment.

HPV: A Patient’s Guide

This 11-page colour booklet summarizes information on the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), including types of HPV, prevention, screening and treatment.

Resources and Related Pages