A friend of mine called me tonight to tell me I needed to get checked for an STI. She and I both had unprotected sex with the same guy, and her recent pap came back irregular. She hasn't been told what it is yet, but I'm worried that I have whatever it is. I've also had sex with two other people since him, so should I tell them about this or should I wait to see what happens? I have the worst pit in my stomach and I can't get in to see my doctor until the end of next week. I'm petrified that whatever it is will be something that will make it impossible for me to have a normal life with a husband and kids in the future. Am I overreacting? Please tell me anything you can! — Panicking Penelope
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Dear Panicking Penelope,
Before jumping to any conclusions, you need to get answers. Since you can't get an appointment until the end of next week, ask to be put on your doctor's wait list. If you feel comfortable, find out if you can see his or her nurse practitioner so you can get tested. I can only imagine what must be going through your head right now, so try to get your peace of mind as soon as you can.
In the meantime, be mindful of the fact that your friend could have contracted her STI from any one of her partners. Just because her most recent pap was irregular, it doesn't necessarily mean that she got it from the partner you have in common. While I do appreciate your desire to tell your recent sexual partners of this potential news, I'd wait until you know for sure that there's something to tell. There's no use worrying them prematurely.
Though STIs carry a negative stigma, it is possible to have a completely normal relationship and sex life with an STI (while being very careful and using protection, of course). If the results do in fact confirm that you have an STI, get all the facts from your doctor and proceed from there. It can be difficult to tell new partners — or past partners that could have been exposed — about your news, but it's critical that you do so they can take the appropriate steps to get treated if need be. It's not unusual to experience a plethora of emotions ranging from shock to sadness after contracting an STI, so I suggest talking to a therapist or trusted friend if you need a sounding board or help accepting the news. Good luck to you.