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    Understanding Treatment for Sexually Transmitted Disease

    How Do I Know If I Have a Sexually Transmitted Disease?

    If you or your sex partner has unprotected sex with anyone else, you are at risk for getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Ask your doctor to test you for STDs during your annual physical, even if you have no symptoms. If you test positive, your sexual partners will need treatment. It may be embarrassing, but you must tell them they have been exposed. It is a matter of life and death.

    STDs may be detected during a physical exam; through Pap smears; and in tests of blood, urine, and genital and anal secretions.

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    Women who have HPV during pregnancy may worry that the HPV virus can harm their unborn child, but in most cases, it won't affect the developing baby. Nor does HPV infection -- which can manifest itself as genital warts -- usually change the way a woman is cared for during pregnancy. It is important, however, to let your obstetrician know if you have HPV. Here's what women need to know about HPV and pregnancy.

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    What Are the Treatments for Sexually Transmitted Diseases?

    Don't try to treat an STD yourself. These diseases are contagious and serious. You must see a doctor.

    Bacterial STDs can be cured with antibiotics if treatment begins early enough. Viral STDs cannot be cured, but you can manage symptoms with medications. There is a vaccine against hepatitis B, but it will not help if you already have the disease.

    If you are given an antibiotic to treat an STD, it is important that you take all of the drug prescribed to you, even if the symptoms go away. Also, do not take someone else's medication to treat your infection; it may make the infection more difficult to treat.

    Here are some specific treatments:

    HIV/AIDS: Since AIDS is not curable, treatment focuses on keeping HIV levels in check. Antiretroviral drugs are the standard therapy for HIV infection, and usually you will be given several drugs to take, a so-called drug "cocktail." The question of when to begin antiretroviral therapy is still debated. Some doctors believe in an early start to better manage the virus, while others believe it is better to wait, because the drugs can cause unpleasant side effects and drug resistance may develop. Talk to your doctor about when you should begin antiretroviral therapy.

    Chlamydia and Gonorrhea: These STDs are treated with antibiotics. You should begin taking them if tests show you have the infection or if you have been exposed to it, even though you may not have symptoms. Your sex partners will also have to be treated regardless of whether they have symptoms. Certain strains of gonorrhea have become resistant to some antibiotics, so you may have to take more than one drug to fight gonorrhea. Failure to treat these infections can result in permanent damage to your reproductive organs and a woman's being unable to get pregnant. If you have been treated for chlamydia, get tested again after three months, even if your partner has been treated.

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