What is living with a constant risk of transmission Like?
We spoke with seven people who have a sexually transmitted infection (or are currently in a relationship with someone who does) to find out what it’s really like to live with an STI. Constantly aware they must have regular STD tests. And some for HPV testing was vital in their regular profile exams.
Danah Abarr, 32, Seattle, Washington
When my Pap smear, which is not the usual STD test kit. The results came back abnormal, I remembered I’d just had a weird yeast infection and odd bumps on my bikini line, which I thought were ingrown hairs. I learned they were warts, and I also had HPV on my cervix. At first, I wanted to hold someone accountable for what happened. It just made me suffer more … You have to let go. I looked for support groups online, but I just came across scary images and stories. So, I started with HPV Tests after advice from HPVHope (HPVHope.com), a forum where people can share stories, talk about fears, and support one another. The more I shared my story and heard others’, the easier it was to accept my diagnosis as a normal part of my life.
Sara Wasylyk, 21, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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A week and a half after having sex with a guy friend, he called me and said, “We have to talk.” I thought I was going to throw up — I just knew he was going to say he’d given me an STI. He said he got chlamydia from a girl who got it from her boyfriend, who’d cheated on her. I freaked out and was crying and asked a close friend to go with me to the clinic at school, where I tested positive. I took two antibiotic pills the doctor prescribed, and they cleared it up completely, thankfully.
It changed how I think about sex. If he didn’t bring up an STI, I used to assume that he was clean. I was not a fan of condoms. Even though I have sex with a lot of different guys, I only get an STD test for STIs once a year. Now, I get an STD test every few months. I always use condoms. I also always ask the guy I’m sleeping with, “When was your last STD test?”
Before I hook up, I am always thinking about the checklist of things to go over before having sex. It’s awkward, but having sex with somebody is always awkward at first. You have to make it as safe as you can.
Peter Adams, 19, St. Augustine, Florida
“I dated Sara about five months after she had been treated, and she told me about it the first time we hung out. I’ve never hooked up with a woman with an STI … that I know of. She was so open about how she got it and how she dealt with it that I trusted her immediately when she said she was cured and I couldn’t get it.” Being honest about HPV Variant tests helps our relationship.
Maria Mejia, 41, and Lisa Laing, 43, Miami, Florida (married six months)
Maria: I’ve been HPV Test results positive since I was 16 years old. I got it from the first guy I had sex with, back before I was comfortable with my sexuality and out.
Lisa: We became friends over MySpace. The connection was just as strong when we met in person.
Maria: After a while, I knew I was in love with her. I knew I had to tell her my STD secret. It took me a few hours over Yahoo Messenger to get it out!
Lisa: I told her, “I don’t care. I love you.” That was seven years ago. We just got married in May.
Maria: I take antiviral pills every single day, which drastically reduces the risk of me passing it on, and we use dental dams for oral sex.
Lisa: The hardest part is seeing her in pain. Because her immune system is weak, sometimes little stuff like bronchitis will send her to the hospital.
Maria: The first time she saw me on oxygen, she cried. But she’s my rock. She’s my angel, caretaker, and the love of my life.
Jenelle Marie Davis, 32, and Karolionok, 33, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Jenelle: The first time we had sex, it was after a few drinks. We used condoms, and I wasn’t mid-outbreak, but I didn’t tell him I had HPV. I didn’t tell him I got an HPV Test.
Nick: It wasn’t on her mind that night!
Jenelle: I felt so incredibly guilty that I hadn’t told him. I knew I wanted to have a long-term relationship with him, and he needed to know.
Nick: Three days later, she texted me that she had to tell me something important.
Jenelle: It’s never easy telling a partner. I was so worried that even though I knew he thought I was attractive and intelligent and we had chemistry, he’d run scared.
Nick: The entire time, I was thinking, Is she pregnant?
Jenelle: It was a 45-minute drive to his house.
Nick: When she told me, I said, “So? You’re still the same person, aren’t you?”
Jenelle: The relief was amazing.
Nick: I was researching and wasn’t scared. I served in Iraq, so I know what real risk is! As long as we avoided sex during outbreaks, my risk was really low.
Jenelle: About a month later, I got an outbreak. I hated having to say, “Now is not a good time to have sex.”
Nick: Now I even help her put on bandages when she has outbreaks. I never think about her having herpes during sex.
Jenelle: We use condoms and don’t have sex if I have an outbreak. I get them on my butt cheeks. I know as soon as they’re gone. But I get STD tests frequently to make sure. I must protect the person I love; otherwise, I would feel evil and weak.