April is STD Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect time to discuss dating someone with an STD. Although it's one thing to cope with your own diagnosis, coping with someone else's status is a different situation altogether — especially if you're just getting to know them.
The CDC reports that there are an estimated 20 million new STD infections each year, and more than half of all people will be diagnosed with an STD in their lifetime. There are 50 million adults with genital herpes to date, and yet up to 90 percent of infected people are unaware that they have it. Fourteen million new HPV infections occur each year, and HIV infections, while declining in the U.S., still number at 50,000 new infections per year. Combined, these stats suggest that if you're in the dating market long enough, you're likely to hook up, date, or be in a relationship with someone who has a sexually transmitted infection. There's still a lot of stigma around them, even those that can be cured with antibiotics, but for those who have sexually transmitted infections that aren't curable at the moment, the stigma is even worse. Here are five tips for dating someone with an STD.
1. Educate Yourself
Once your dating partner discloses their status, it's on you to do your homework. While some folks might want to tell you the ins and outs of their particular STD, others might not want to be your personal sex educator, so you'll need to take the reins and get to reading.
2. Offer Emotional Support
There may be days when your partner is having an outbreak or feeling weak or depressed about their condition, and you really want to have sex but they're in no mood for it. Understanding the emotional component of a chronic STD is just as important as recognizing the physical symptoms.
3. Practice Safe Sex
It's easy to protect yourself from most sexually transmitted infections by using condoms religiously, but with herpes, for example, it's a bit trickier. Asymptomatic skin shedding can occur during any skin-to-skin contact around the genitals and transmit the virus, although there are now anti-virals on the market that greatly reduce this risk.
4. Don't STD Shame Them
It should go without saying, but having a sexually transmitted infection doesn't mean you're "dirty" or "slutty" or any sex negative word you can use to describe a person. Assuming anything about someone's sexual history or future sexual behavior based on their status is never a good idea, because there is no one kind of person who has an STD.
5. Get Tested Often
Whether you're dating someone who has an STD or not, it's always good to be vigilant about getting tested. However, when you know you could be exposed to a virus on the regs, it's even more reason to hit up the clinic and take stock in your sexual health.
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