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STIs - treatment

Some sexually transmitted infection (STIs) can be cured, while for others, there is no cure, but symptoms can be managed.

How do I know if I have an STI (sexually transmitted infection)?

If you or your sexual partner has unprotected sex with anyone else, you are at risk of a sexually transmitted infection. Ask your doctor or your nearest NHS sexual health clinic to test you for STIs, even if you have no symptoms. If you test positive, your sexual partners will need treatment. It may be embarrassing, but you should tell them they have been exposed.

It is possible to detect STIs through a physical examination and in tests of blood, urine, and genital and anal secretions.

What are the treatments for STIs?

Do not try to treat an STI yourself. These diseases are contagious and serious. You must seek medical advice.

Bacterial STIs can be cured with antibiotics. Viral STI cannot be cured, but you can manage symptoms with medication. There is a vaccine against hepatitis B, but it will not help if you already have the disease.

If you are given antibiotics to treat an STI, it is important that you take all of the medication prescribed to you, even if the symptoms go away. Also, do not take someone else's medication to treat your infection as it may make it more difficult to treat.

Here are some specific treatments:

HIV/AIDS: Since AIDS is not curable, treatment focuses on keeping HIV levels in check. Antiretroviral drugs are the standard therapy for HIV infection, and usually you will be given several drugs to take, a so-called drug "cocktail." Talk to your doctor about when you should begin antiretroviral therapy.

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea: These STIs are treated with antibiotics. You should begin taking them if tests show you have the infection or if you have been exposed to it, even though you may not have symptoms. Your sexual partners will also have to be treated regardless of whether they have symptoms. Certain strains of gonorrhoea have become resistant to some antibiotics, so you may have to take more than one drug to fight gonorrhoea. Failure to treat these infections can result in permanent damage to your reproductive organs and a woman’s inability to get pregnant.

Syphilis: Antibiotics are used to treat syphilis. Early treatment is crucial to prevent the bacteria from spreading to and damaging other organs.

Genital herpes: Once you are infected with genital herpes, the virus remains in your body for life. After the first outbreak, herpes may flare up several times per year, but these flares may lessen over time. Antiviral medication such as aciclovir, famciclovir, and valaciclovir, can help reduce the length and severity of both the initial and subsequent outbreaks. If you have outbreaks often, you may want to use suppressive therapy. In suppressive therapy, your doctor prescribes medication for you to take every day, to prevent you from getting an outbreak.

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