STIs caused by bacteria are generally easier to treat. Viral infections can be managed but not always cured. If you're pregnant and have an STI, prompt treatment can prevent or reduce the risk of infection of your baby.
Treatment usually consists of one of the following, depending on the infection:
Antibiotics. Antibiotics, often in a single dose, can cure many sexually transmitted bacterial and parasitic infections, including gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. Typically, you'll be treated for gonorrhea and chlamydia at the same time because the two infections often appear together.
Once you start antibiotic treatment, it's crucial to follow through. If you don't think you'll be able to take medication as prescribed, tell your doctor. A shorter, simpler treatment regimen may be available.
In addition, it's important to abstain from sex until you've completed treatment and any sores have healed.
Antiviral drugs. You'll have fewer herpes recurrences if you take daily suppressive therapy with a prescription antiviral drug. Antiviral drugs lessen the risk of infection, but it's still possible to give your partner herpes.
Antiviral drugs can keep HIV infection in check for many years. But the virus persists and can still be transmitted, though the risk is lower.
The sooner you start treatment, the more effective it is. Once you start treatment — if you take your medications exactly as directed — it's possible to lower your virus count to nearly undetectable levels.
If you've had an STI, ask your doctor how long after treatment you need to be retested. Doing so ensures that the treatment worked and that you haven't been reinfected.
Partner notification and preventive treatment
If tests show that you have an STI, your sex partners — including your current partners and any other partners you've had over the last three months to one year — need to be informed so that they can get tested and treated if infected. Each state has different requirements, but most mandate that certain STIs be reported to the local or state health department. Public health departments frequently employ trained disease intervention specialists who can help with partner notification and treatment referrals.
Official, confidential partner notification can help limit the spread of STIs, particularly for syphilis and HIV. The practice also steers those at risk toward appropriate counseling and treatment. And since you can contract some STIs more than once, partner notification reduces your risk of getting reinfected.