Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPH
Aside from the experiences mentioned below, this interviewee also recently had an encounter with a friend who had been exposed to herpes. She says she understands first-hand how confusing STDs still are to a lot of people. Her friend found out she tested negative, but this latest occurrence enforced for her how important continued awareness and education efforts are for STD prevention.
The necessity to help others who have been affected either directly or indirectly grows daily, and she’s enthusiastically contributing to that need.
1. How old are you?
2. What do you do for a living?
I have a Master’s in Public Health, and I currently blog for a sexual health start-up.
3. What STD do you have/have you had?
HPV and Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
4. How long have you had or known you have an STD?
When I was told I had HPV, I was a senior in college. I did not know how long I had it, because it was my first time getting tested for any STDs.
For my BV, I knew it was within 6 months of testing, because, the last time I had gotten tested, I was negative for everything, and then I started having symptoms of burning and discomfort.
5. Do you know how you contracted this STD?
For HPV, I knew it was my ex-boyfriend, because he was the only person I had sex with at the time. We had been on and off for numerous months, and, while I hadn’t been with another guy, I knew he had been with other girls during our months apart. Of course, when I would have sex with him, I wouldn’t use a condom, because I trusted him, and it didn’t occur to me that he could not be using a condom with other woman he had been sleeping with. That was not a smart move.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STD?
Now, I always use a condom with no exceptions. In fact, I give my friends condoms to keep in their purse and their room, AND I’ve even gotten much better about asking about whether a partner’s been tested. It’s not as uncomfortable as I assumed. It’s liberating knowing that all the info is out in the open.
7. Do the people who know you have an STD treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
Luckily, no. If anyone did treat me differently, not only would that be judgmental, but it would also signal, to me, they aren’t my friend or that guy is not worth my time.
A lot of people don’t know their status and unintentionally spread an STD. I’m an honest and open person (or I try to be). I like to give others the benefit of the doubt; so, I try to make them feel like they can ask me questions by starting the convo first.
8. Are you currently under treatment for your STD? If so, please share whether you have explored prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or holistic and natural approaches.
No, not currently.
But, when I had BV, I had to take 10 days of antibiotics, and when the pharmacist tells you don’t drink, they really mean don’t drink. Even a sip.
One night, I had a sip or two when I went on a date, because I didn’t want to feel rude when the guy offered his drink. I was on my last day of medication and thought, ‘oh I should be fine, no biggie’. Wrong. I had the worst hot-flashes the rest of the night, my pupils were dilated, I felt dehydrated, and I had moments where my heart was racing. That was the stupidest decision I ever made. Needless to say, listen to the instructions very carefully.
9. Has having an STD hindered past relationships?
No, not to date. But I have high hopes that it shouldn’t if I’m with the right person. 😉
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STD affected your partner?
Currently, I don’t have a bf. However, I definitely plan on having that ‘STD convo‘ when I get into a new relationship.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STD whom you did not tell you had an STD?
I’ve never knowingly been sexually active while having an STD. With HPV, there weren’t any symptoms, but I didn’t have sex with any guy w/o using a condom after I found out. Honestly, I’ve been lucky that almost every guy I’ve been with, but one, always took out a condom without me having to ask.
With BV, there were symptoms that were so uncomfortable that the thought of having sex with any man was not appealing at all! Plus, I had to be on antibiotics for 10 days, and the side effects with that weren’t great either.
[Bacterial vaginosis (BV), though not a traditional STD, falls under the umbrella term vaginitis, and some of the causes of vaginitis are typical STDs. BV can not be transmitted to or from male partners, but it can be exacerbated by sexual activities.]
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STD?
I hadn’t changed one bit when I had HPV (it cleared out of my body 2 years after testing positive) or BV.
I’m still me but a smarter, more responsible me that uses a condom and is MUCH more comfortable asking if the guy’s been recently tested or not. It is also what has lead me to join the sexual health start-up I work for – to develop a better, easier way for people to regularly get tested; so, it becomes just as much a part of your routine as brushing your teeth or taking your birth control.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with The STI Project?
In sharing how I contracted an STD, I believe I’m taking one step toward making the STD conversation more social and less awkward.
We can talk about about our sexual escapades and openly admit who we are interested in having sex with, but it’s still so stigmatized to talk or ask about STDs or about STD testing. If you can’t be open and honest about it, why should you expect your sex partner to be?
From personal experience, that one night of thrilling sex without taking the 2 minutes to slip on a condom is just not worth it. No guy is worth a trip to a clinic, a positive test result, and a round of medication no matter how great the sex is. Trust me.
I used to think I was immune, and I could afford a few nights of unprotected sex. It was easier to keep my mouth shut, and I was just in denial about how my carelessness could be putting me at risk. I would be so afraid of ruining the moment or offending the guy, but now that I’ve had the convo a couple of times, they actually appreciate it, and I get the benefit of having peace of mind.
Can you relate to this interviewee? Did it help you to read someone else’s story? Have you experienced something similar or do you have some feedback to share with this individual? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!