We were lied to – perhaps the job does not guarantee protection

Tests and HPV Stories – Hollie 26

“I was very anxious and upset to learn that I tested positive for HPV and they found abnormal cells. When I had the STD test results, I found little information online.

I’ve been with my partner for 6 years, and I had the HPV vaccine at school over 10 years ago. I believe my school year was one of the first (if not the first) to receive the vaccine. Much misinformation has been given to my peers and me at that age. We were given the impression that the jab prevents you from getting it, which could potentially lead to cervical cancer, and perhaps (naively) many of us believed this to be the case.

I now know this is not the case. It wasn’t very clear when I received my letter confirming that I had it. I researched and found that it is very common, and there is nothing to worry about, but I know I am not the only one who was confused. I’ve had various girls my age reach out to me after I shared my story about my abnormal cells and STD Lab test reports.

Confusing Questions

They had the same questions: “I thought the jab at school prevented us from this. And I’m STD positive, too. Do you think that may be due to us having the vaccines when we were younger and the HPV still being in our bodies?”

We want to see greater education about STD from the vaccination age, including its inclusion in PSHE and science lessons. This will support the provision of informed consent, help tackle stigma from an early age and encourage cross-generational conversation about cervical health.

A diagnosis can lead to all sorts of emotions. Our research showed that over seven in ten felt anxious about it, and almost half felt ashamed. A diagnosis often comes at a time which is already stressful, for an HPV exam dealing with treatment for cell changes and fears about cancer.

Nina, 31

“It takes a lot for me to cry, but hearing this news made me tear up. This diagnosis made me vulnerable. I was also frightened as I thought it could cause complications like requiring a hysterectomy or affecting my chances of having children. It felt as though the diagnosis meant part of my future had been decided for me, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was gripped with fear and uncertainty about ‘ha’ was goin’ on inside ‘y body.

I carried out a Google search for ‘What is HPV?’ And the result read ‘HPV is the most commonly transmitted infection (STD Home Kits)’. It was alarming and confusing, as I didn’t understand how I could catch an STD, having been with my boyfriend for over four years.

We want to see appropriate information and increased awareness across the life course about” what it is, how common it is and what it means to have the virus.

Lisa, 49

“I freaked out. I have been with the same partner for 20+ years. It was hard to understand what it was, how I got it, or what it meant. I recognised the letters but always associated them. We had been together for 24 years. I remember saying, “But it’s an STD!” and feeling dirty.”

Talking about a diagnosis, especially with partners and loved ones, can be hard and may mean answering tough questions. Almost half of those we surveyed were worried about telling their partner they had “PV. It can”also lead to changed feelings about sex and intimacy.

Lydia, 26

There was a lot of stigma and shame in my head, and I didn’t know how to do it. I was the first of my friends to have an STD Full Panel report. I’d felt embarrassed to ask for their advice because that meant I’d have to tell them I had HPV. I felt quite isolated, and of the few I did speak to, I got”differing “opinions on whether or not I needed to tell him.

Beth S, 27

For me, the whole experience was strange because I’m in a same-sex relationship. When I got the results, I immediately thought, am I putting someone else in danger? Am I giving this to someone else? That was scary. My initial thought was that someone else in this relationship has a cervix – what have I done to it? It did put a different perspective on things for me. I read all the stories about if and how you can pass on HPV to people. There are great stories about”guys and girls, but what if the other person has a cervix, too?”

Diana, 30

My mum and I have a very open and honest relationship about HPV Swab testing. However, when it comes to dating and sex, it is a bit trickier. STDs are common but still taboo for some.  She is a devout Catholic from the Philippines; religion was a big part of her life growing up. This, in particular, felt difficult to share. But I felt it was a health issue, and she needed to know about it. I’m told she had HPV years ago, too and even had been to colposcopy! I’m 30, and I never knew this about my mum! Talking about sexual issues and health does not occur often in my (Asian Filipino) family. I’m so happy my mum was open and honest with me about it. It made me feel like I had someone to discuss it with.

At first, it felt like a private thing between me and the doctor. But when I started talking about it, people began opening up. It’s a matter of starting those conversations. It does not indicate my behaviour or lifestyle and is nothing to be ashamed of. If I could, I would do everything again. I’d speak to my mum immediately.”