Real People Stories – Anonymous

I have the papillomavirus (HPV) test, and it is ruining my life. I want to share the struggle I’ve endured testing with this STD for five years. Today, I woke up angry and wanted to channel it into something constructive. I’ve expressed my journey countless times through my work as a baby planner, on social media, and at conferences. And I’ve bared myself both literally and figuratively. I’ve done all that.

My morning tears, the chains I want to break free from, stem from guilt!

Yes, the guilt of being a carrier of this virus.

We talk extensively about breast cancer, rallying women for screenings, and being unified and responsible. But what about cervical cancer? It’s the second deadliest cancer among women.

The Virus is everyone’s concern.

HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus. These viruses infect skin and mucous membranes through sexual contact (with or without protection) or via hands and mouth. The risk increases with multiple partners.

It’s a sexually transmitted disease, and each reminder of it makes me feel dirty or responsible, sometimes both. I carry the virus.

I infect men, who then transmit it to women. Of the 70% of the population affected by HPV, 10% develop precancerous lesions and 5% progress to cancer. Only 10% of operated women experience recurrences like mine. I’ve already had two surgeries. I’ve known about the virus for over a year and a half, burying my head in the sand, hoping the lesions will resolve on their own.

Being sick doesn’t “bother” me, but bearing responsibility for others illnesses is unbearable.

Three options:

Abstinence (though, sorry to debunk a myth, it’s impractical); Another surgery to remove the lesions; Hysterectomy; Or… Tell me that as long as it doesn’t progress to cancer, I selfishly do nothing and continue to infect others.

None of these options appeal to me. So, what do I do?

The burden of my uterus

Discussing my illness invites varied responses:

“You keep putting yourself at risk!”

No, I’m a single adult, 38 years old, nothing more, nothing less.

“But do you inform your partners?”

Quite straightforward and essential. At the first encounter: “Oh, by the way, I must tell you, I have an STD disease responsible for the second deadliest HPV cancer in women; it’s sexually transmitted, but don’t worry, you might already be a healthy carrier… Still interested?” I disclosed my HPV illness to two partners: the first left me because of it; he felt my disclosure was a betrayal. The second consistently changed the subject whenever I brought it up. He was not supportive, but at least he didn’t pity me like others.

“And stop calling it HPV cancer; it’s not real cancer!”

Keep hitting that note; it’ll eventually make music. I promise, next time, I’ll get a “real” illness. I swear.

“But just have your uterus removed already! You already have two beautiful children!” Hysterectomy is the least desirable HPV option of all because, believe it or not, there’s a chance I may want another child(ren). And besides, it’s no trivial matter—physically, hormonally, and psychologically.

I leave my STD gynaecological appointment. My doctor couldn’t perform a smear test because my cervix is so narrow from repeated surgeries. I can’t endure another STD examination; my cervix is traumatised by the constant cuts. It took me a year to find an IUD that fit, and the insertion was indescribably painful.

Why should I continue to endure surgeries, suffer, stop working, lose income, and possibly not tolerate any STD contraception except condoms (when everyone else is trying to do away with them)? At the same time, nobody takes any action, leaving me vulnerable to re-infection at any moment.

You’re all contributing to the problem.

I call upon all of you reading this STD rant for men and women alike. Men, you’re part of the issue. Women, you’re directly affected. It’s about us, but it’s also about our children. There’s a collective responsibility and an individual one. We’re all involved.

I appeal to HPV researchers. Please focus on this disease. I know there’s a vaccine project specifically for men underway. That’s great. Keep researching. Even if our generation is already affected, at least we can protect our children.

I appeal to public authorities: when will a genuine communication and HPV Test awareness campaign occur? It’s high time to educate the public and doctors, ensuring everyone has equal access to knowledge. Some labs have developed localised STD tests with treatments that could replace surgery. Are these reliable? Is there a treatment for men? Shouldn’t we systematically treat men, too? Why should women alone bear the burden of a disease that affects us all but impacts women’s lives disproportionately?