There’s no avoiding the statistics: the number of reported sexually transmitted disease (STD) cases are at an all-time high, and if you are sexually active, you are at risk of infection. So what can you do? Arm yourself with the facts about STDs and talk with your healthcare provider-that’s always an important place to start.
When it comes to protecting your sexual health, the best offense is a good defense. A relationship between patient and healthcare provider emphasizing teamwork and communication is key: when the relationship works better, sexual health works better.
No one wants to feel like they’re just a number. In today’s fast-paced world, it can feel that way when you’re one of many patients a healthcare provider sees. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The power to protect your health is in your own hands. Do your homework – know the risks, symptoms, and the steps you can take to protect yourself from STDs. Talk to your healthcare provider about what you can do – and how you can work together – to be proactive in safeguarding your sexual health. Your health matters, and it’s up to you to take control:
Prepare to answer your healthcare provider’s questions about sex honestly.
Get tested – many STDs are curable, and all are treatable.
Get treated – protect yourself from long-term, irreversible damage to your health by starting treatment immediately.
Know the benefits of expedited partner therapy (EPT) – your provider may be able to give you medicine or a prescription for your partner – even without seeing them first.
Get retested – it’s common to get some STDs more than once, so getting retested in three months is important, even if you and your partner took medicine.
Communicate, communicate, communicate – with your sexual partner and your healthcare provider.
With STD rates continuing to climb for the third straight year, and many patients to see, it can be hard for healthcare providers to find time for extensive patient interactions. But protecting your patients’ sexual health can be a simple, direct process when you empower them to take charge of their own sexual health. Work closely with your patients to give them the tools they need to stay healthy. The following tips can help:
- Take a thorough sexual history – ask essential sexual health questions in a welcoming, relaxed tone.
- Build trust with your patient – for example, make your office teen friendly to put younger patients at ease.
- Reassure your patient that their information is confidential – especially before asking sensitive questions.
- Ensure that you and your patient understand each other – sharing an understanding of all terms used avoids confusion.
- Determine which STD tests your patient needs – information you gather from the sexual history also helps you select the anatomical sites that should be tested.
- Follow CDC’s STD Treatment Guidelines when your patients are diagnosed with an STD – treat them right by using CDC-recommended treatments for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and other STDs.
- Encourage your patients to return for follow-up testing in three months – reinfection is common for some STDs.