Looking for convenient, discreet, at-home STI Testing? Take our simple quiz to find the right test for you. While there are many different ways we can change our behavior to try to avoid STIs, the simple fact of the matter is that STIs happen. We’re here to provide a breakdown of the different medicines and vaccines that can be used to prevent and treat STIs.
Prevention: If you’re sexually active, you can reduce your risk of getting HIV by practicing safer sex, such as using condoms and lubrication consistently and correctly. If you are at high risk for HIV you can take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication daily to reduce your risk of getting HIV by over 90%. Check out PrEP and HIV, the most common questions to learn more about PrEP. If you’ve potentially been exposed to HIV you can take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for 28 days. It’s more effective the sooner you take it, and you have to start it within 72 hours of exposure.
Treatment: Antiretroviral therapy (ART) can reduce the amount of virus in the body to levels so low that they are undetectable by tests. People who have very low or undetectable levels of the virus can stay healthy for many years. These people can also have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV sexually.
Hepatitis B (HBV)
Prevention: The hepatitis B vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent HBV infection. All infants should get the vaccine as a series of shots. If something interrupts the series you should resume it as soon as possible. Note that you do not have to restart it entirely.
Treatment: Acute hepatitis B has no treatment, but usually rest, healthy diet, and fluids are recommended. Chronic hepatitis B can be treated with several medications, and new drugs are in development. Once a person starts treatment, they will need to continue the medication for life.
Prevention: The HPV vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent HPV infection. Children eleven to twelve years old should get two shots of the vaccine six to twelve months apart. Teenagers who get their two shots less than five months apart will require a third dose. Young people should also get the vaccine.
Treatment: HPV genital warts can be treated or removed by a healthcare provider. A provider can also remove abnormal cells and precancerous lesions. Otherwise there is no recommended treatment for HPV. 90% of the time the virus will clear on its own within two years.
Prevention: If you’re sexually active, you can take the following precautions to lower your chances of getting these STIs: limit your number of sexual partners and make sure all partners test negative for STIs, and use barrier methods effectively every time you have sex. You can get an STI through oral, vaginal, and anal sex so be sure to use internal/external condoms or oral dams every time you engage in these activities.
Chlamydia & Gonorrhea
Treatment: Chlamydia and gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics. You shouldn’t engage in sexual activity for 7 days after treatment if you took the antibiotics as a single dose. If your provider prescribes you a week long course of antibiotics, you should abstain from sexual activity while you are taking the medication. Note that treatment will not repair any permanent damage that has already occurred. Even if you and your partner(s) get treatment, you should re-test yourself three months after to make sure you are not re-infected.
Treatment: Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics, usually penicillin. Dosage, and length of treatment depend on the stage and symptoms of the disease. Note that treatment will not repair any permanent damage that has already occurred. Even if you and your partner(s) get treatment, you should re-test yourself in six to twelve months to make sure you are not re-infected.
Treatment: Trichomoniasis can be cured with antibiotics. About 1 in 5 people get an STI within 3 months after receiving treatment. To avoid reinfection, wait seven to ten days after you and your partner(s) have been treated to have sex. Even if you and your partner(s) get treatment, you should re-test yourself three months after treatment to make sure you are not re-infected.
All that said, the first step to getting the proper treatment for an STI is to know you have one! Because over half of people with an STI won’t show any symptoms, it’s critical to incorporate regular screening into your healthcare. To learn more about when to get tested, check out this blog on window periods.