It’s always best to protect yourself

Personal story: Leo

“I’m an odd case, and I’ve learned to be okay with it. I grew up in the church, and I followed the rules almost to a T. No drugs, no sex, no nothing; I didn’t even know what an STD test was.

By the age of 25, I had fooled around with some girls and had a girlfriend of two years whom I never had intercourse with. But that didn’t necessarily translate into success in bed.

It became easier and easier after building up confidence and learning how to date outside the church. I hooked up with a girl a couple of months ago and finally lost my actual virginity at the age of 27. while the sex wasn’t great, we made the right choice and used a condom both times.

My second partner was someone I’d known for months, worked in healthcare, and seemed very clued up on her medical stuff. We found ourselves caught up in the heat of the moment. I ran out of condoms. Because I was too embarrassed to buy more at my neighbourhood store. Before we knew it, we were having a lot of unprotected sex.

Exams are key

The funny thing was that she asked me if I’d been tested for STDs. She did not know I wasn’t very sexually active. Things didn’t work out between us. And within a week, I noticed something wrong. So I got a test.

Even if you trust the person you’re having sex with, even if it’s someone who works in healthcare, and even if you think the odds are in your favour, it’s always best to protect yourself from STIs. Always use a condom – there are various ways to prevent kids, but not all of them prevent STIs.

STIs can hurt a lot, and waiting for the results to come back is going to be some of the longest days of your life. Anyone can get or have an STI. You may hear many stories of people winging it, but this is some fire you don’t want to play with.”

What we say

Although Leo was careful to begin with, like lots of us, he got carried away in the heat of the moment. It happens! Making sure you keep stocked up on condoms and lube can mean you’re less likely to get caught out. Making regular STI check-ups part of your routine can help keep your mind at ease and help you get treatment if needed.

Personal story: Kiaan

Take charge of your sexual health.

“I was 21, in college and never had an STD before. I was sexually active for three years, and my partner was careful. Eventually, we parted ways, and I met someone with whom I had class. He seemed cool and was very intelligent. One day, I decided to meet up with him, and he wanted to have unprotected sex with me. I was aware of STDs and told him to get a condom even though he swore up and down he was clean. Eventually, we met up again for the second time, and I knew I should have worn a condom, but he swore again he didn’t have anything, and he seemed responsible.

After having unprotected sex with this man, I was curious and decided to get checked out anyway. Two weeks went by, and I got a call back stating I was positive for chlamydia. I am upset and confused. How can someone swear they are clean yet have something?

My advice would be to wear protection every single time and get tested beforehand for all STDs. Don’t trust someone just because they swear they do not have something. Take charge of your sexual health and be aware that it only takes one time to get anything.”

What we say

There are lots of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that don’t have symptoms. So often, people won’t know that they have an infection. It’s good to get an STD Home test regularly for chlamydia and other STIs – even if you don’t have any symptoms.

Personal story: Cebokazi

I had a fear of STD Swab testing, which made things worse.

“I was raised in an environment where I was taught that having sex is a death or pregnancy sentence. Fast-forward to my 3rd year in university, I had unprotected sex once. After that day, I didn’t have peace of mind. The stigmas of STDs gave me anxiety attacks. I convinced myself I had one. I have the most supportive friends, but confessing is embarrassing.

My fear tests only made things a lot worse. I Googled HIV for a year. My anxiety was getting out of hand, and by this time, I already had a boyfriend, so I told him about my fear. I went and did a test with his amazing support.

I tested negative, but I feel I need to write something so people don’t go through what I went through. STD stigma is not real. Getting tested means you’ll be able to move on from it. If you test positive, you can get treatment, and life continues. If you test negative, then you know, and life goes on.

Now, I look back and think about all the anxiety attacks and damage to my mental health. I could have avoided it by just getting a test. HIV is not a death sentence; you’ll treat it for the rest of your life, but you’ll be okay. Don’t let fear get in your way. I promise that no matter the result, it’s better to know because then you can move on with life.”