Real People Stories – Anonymous Man

Telling my story to other men is breaking the taboo. In 2021, I, a gay man, received a test result of HPV after finding several warts around my anus. Initially, the news terrified and disgusted me, and I felt ashamed. However, upon researching STD tests online, I learned about the commonality of this infection in the population, particularly among women. However, it raised doubts: are passive men more prone? Do condylomas cause cancer?

At my first HPV appointment with a proctologist, the only alternative he offered me was an expensive surgery to remove the condylomas. It was out of my reach. Another told me that if I continued to have sex with men, I would not be able to heal from my injuries. Finally, I visited an NGO specializing in the treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They examined me and told me that surgery was not necessary in my case. This was because there were no internal injuries, and I treated my STD condylomas with cryotherapy. The cold was used to destroy cancer cells or abnormal tissue.

Ongoing Care

The most valuable thing about this experience has been talking to friends, telling them my STD story, and thus breaking the taboo around the subject. Every six months, I visit the doctor for a preventive check-up, and recently, through a biopsy, I learned that my strain of HPV is low-risk. I’d want to get vaccinated against carcinogenic strains, but in Colombia, the doses are too expensive.

I know that in some countries, these vaccines are provided free of charge. Unfortunately, they are not here. If you can get vaccinated, I strongly recommend doing so! 

Vaccination and regular HPV testing are essential because they safeguard you and your immediate contacts, as well as others who might be in contact with the people you interact with. Recognizing how our actions can have ripple effects throughout the community is crucial.

Margareth Sanchez

I waited three years until I was able to choose conization.

I’m 32 years old, but I received my STD diagnosis when I was 28. It was super chaotic because I’d just ended a very long relationship. I was working, studying, and taking care of my mother, who had a disease similar to cancer. The cytology was done, and they told me I should come in to receive the results. I found out I had HPV, and I felt a lot of guilt. Since my long-term relationship had ended and I was having sex with other people, a little voice told me that this had happened to me because I didn’t have a stable partner. She looked at me with that macho magnifying glass.

I was afraid and had many STD doubts. For more than two years, I felt like I was in limbo because there was no certainty about anything; it was not conclusive, the lesion did not disappear, and I knew that she had a high-risk HPV strain. They even made me get the vaccines, which are not covered by insurance, and I had to pay for them. But then I found a gynaecologist with whom I matched.
A super ethical man, about 80 years old, told me: China, if you want, I’ll operate on you. The choice is yours. When he told me that, my soul returned to my body. After 15 days, he performed a conization (a surgery in which abnormal tissue in the cervix is ​​removed).

Breath of Relief

I feel like the day I had surgery, I breathed. I needed solutions and needed to be able to choose my treatment. In my family, there are many girls of age to be vaccinated, and their fathers and mothers do not want to. I want to discuss this because talking impacts our immediate circle. 

Do a test! Take care of your health!! xx

Anonymous Woman

I was afraid of people judging me.

In 2017, I got a diagnosis of HPV. There have been few people I have told because, at that time, the couple of friends I lived with were the first people to generate fear about the subject. The first thing is that, since I had a sexually transmitted infection (STI), the girls believed I was promiscuous, and I had earned it by having had several partners.

One of them stopped sharing the bathroom with me because she was afraid that she would “catch” HPV from using the toilet. She even suggested that suddenly being in the pool with me or doing laundry could infect her. The issue is that no matter how much I read that it was impossible, the stigma was and is so present that despite knowing other stories, I am always afraid to say that I also had it.

I have never told my partners, fearing people judging me for STDs. The anxiety caused by thinking that it would happen again lasted a couple of years. Even though in the first year of treatment, I couldn’t even psychologically go out with someone for fear of transmitting it to them or of catching something else.

In my case, the STD medical treatment was fair and compassionate. However, I always had to find the information on my own. In the consultations, they didn’t talk to me much about it, and I think that psychological support could have helped. The diagnosis showed that it was not the type of HPV associated with cancer. It is better to prevent than cure.