According to a new report released by the CDC, STD rates are rising, and in 2014 hit alarming new highs. Chlamydia tops the list of reported infections, with 1.4 million new cases — the highest ever documented to date. Primary and secondary syphilis increased by 15 percent, and gonorrhea cases increased by 5 percent. CDC data also suggests that women are disproportionately affected by STD infections compared with any other group, so, you know, there's one more fun thing to look forward to as a lady-identified person.
The government's response to this epidemic included stern directives to get tested for STIs, along with a special sexist and homophobic infographic outlining how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases (only if you're a woman or gay/bisexual man, though). We've heard most of this before, but what happens if you're one of the millions of people who actually contracts an STD? There's so much discussion about prevention, it's hard not to feel like a failure if, in fact, you test positive.
Although finding out you have chlamydia is far, far less serious than finding out you have HIV, there are still some similarities in how you can approach your diagnosis with self-care. Here are six ways to cope if you find out you have an STD:
1. Allow Yourself To React
You don't have to remain calm. You don't have to be OK. Sometimes a diagnosis can be devastating for a multitude of reasons, and you should give yourself time to grieve before even trying to get your sh*t together.
2. Don't Slut-Shame Yourself
You don't need to have sex with more than one person to contract an STD, and it doesn't mean you're a "slut" (whatever that word even means) if you do contract one. The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up over the sexual circumstances that led to your diagnosis.
3. Talk To An Expert
Don't freak out on WebMD before talking to your GP or a specialist about your diagnosis. There are a lot of new treatments out there that aren't clearly listed on the Internet, so most Google searches will probably only serve to freak you out more.
4. Talk To Someone You Love
Choose a close friend or family member to disclose your diagnosis to who won't slut-shame or judge you. Emotional support can help you make informed choices, and it's way easier than going it alone.
5. Notify Your Partners
This is a tough one. It's definitely not pleasant to have to call, text or tell someone in person that you have an STD, but it's pretty important that you do. If you fear for your safety or just absolutely can't stomach passing on this pertinent info, inSPOT is a service that can notify someone anonymously that they should get tested.
6. Know You Are Not Your Diagnosis
Just because you have an STD doesn't mean it has to define you — even if you contract something chronic like HIV, HPV, or herpes. Although that's way easier said than done, particularly in the beginning, there are many, many cases of people living healthy, rewarding lives despite their diagnosis.
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