Learning you have a c-exually transmitted infection or disease is never ideal, particularly when you find out you’ve contracted one whose outlook is all too grim. While there’s no cure for some STDs, treatment options may be available to lessen or alleviate symptoms. When it comes to your sexual health, there’s no better time to play it safe. Here are five incurable STDs, and the best treatment options for each.
1. Herpes Simplex
Herpes is a untreatable but manageable skin condition that gets into and lives in your nerves. It’s super prevalent: nearly everyone has the virus by the end of their lives. There are two types — the more common HSV-1 usually lives in or around your mouth (and is usually called cold sores), while HSV-2 prefers your genital region. However, each can live in the other place as well. You can have the herpes virus inside you and not even know it (it’s estimated that 20 to 30 percent of people who have herpes are unaware), but if you do get symptoms, they will be in the form of tiny, fluid-filled blisters that burst and leave behind painful ulcers that take one to three weeks to heal. Luckily, this only happens occasionally.
Also luckily, you can take daily medication to suppress herpes symptoms. Taking this suppressive antiviral medication can reduce outbreaks by up to 80 percent, and in many people suppresses outbreaks altogether. Other people only take meds when they feel an outbreak coming on, which is usually preceded by feelings of tingling, burning, itching, or pain. Suppressive medications have been shown to diminish the risk of spreading the virus to other humans. So while you’re not cured, if you’re taking your medication as your doctor prescribes, you’re pretty close to living herpes-blister-free and protecting your loved ones.
There are also some non-medical things you can do to minimize herpes outbreaks and manage your symptoms. These include supplements and herbs, special diets, and minimizing your stress.
HIV is another of the currently incurable STDs, although it is the one with the most money being thrown at research for a cure. This virus attacks your immune system, making it too weak to fight off other sick-making things that may enter your body. The result can be devastating, as evidenced by the horrific death toll, which is currently around 35 million worldwide since the epidemic began in the 1980s.
Luckily, with current antiviral medication regimens, people are living with HIV for much longer. And even better, a brand-new study that came out this year found that people who take their medication as prescribed to lower the amount of viral copies in their system had no instances of passing along HIV to their partners, even when they weren’t using condoms. So while this isn’t a cure, it’s definitely treatment at its most useful.