Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPH
This interview is a fantastic example of how people from all walks of life and with all educational backgrounds contract sexually transmitted infections. They are an inherent risk to something (intimacy/sex) that also elicits innumerable rewards. Understanding those risks and rewards is part of being sexually healthy, and, ultimately, sexually responsible.
No one wants an infection – I don’t want a cold or the flu – but they happen to the best of us, usually, as a result of not practicing comprehensive safer sex consistently. And sometimes, even when comprehensive safer sex is part of a person’s sexual routine, infections still occur.
An STD is not an indicator of the number of people you have been sexually active with, as number of partners is only a small component of risk. That is why I frequently speak with men and women who’ve been with more partners than they can count on both hands, yet they have not had a known experience with an STD, while others who’ve been with far fewer partners contract one, two, or more infections.
Thank you, interviewee for sharing your story here, as I couldn’t have said it better myself: sharing our experiences promotes awareness, awareness encourages education, education fosters acceptance, and all of those things will lower the incidence of infection. Bravo!
1. How old are you?
2. What do you do for a living?
3. What STI/STD do you have/have you had?
Had chlamydia, have HPV
4. How long have you had or known you have an STI/STD?
Diagnosed with HPV in March of 2013, chlamydia diagnosis came in November of 2013
5. Do you know how you contracted this STI/STD?
HPV – (most likely) from 1 of 3 partners during a 3 month trip abroad in 2013. I had intended to have sex, and I had plenty of condoms and was on birth control. Each guy I asked to use a condom but didn’t insist; the result was no condom. I don’t know why I didn’t insist, but I regret it now. I also suspect that this isn’t uncommon and think it deserves attention – I knew the risks and wanted to have safe[r] sex, but I still didn’t make it happen.
Chlamydia – current boyfriend
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STI/STD?
Well, Pap smears carry more weight for me now; I have had two since I came into contact with HPV – one was the diagnosing Pap smear, and the other was a 6 month follow-up.
I received the Gardasil vaccine and falsely thought it protected me from contracting any HPV. When diagnosed, I was educated that there are more strains than the  cancer and wart-causing ones the vaccine was made for.
I did have a colposcopy, and it came back abnormal but not too abnormal…I guess. My physician let me know it was common, and the body typically fights off HPV on its own. My 6 month follow-up showed that I have not yet cleared HPV from my body. It worries me, but I know that I can only be good to my body and a good patient from here on out – hoping for the best on my next Pap smear!
After, my trip and my HPV, I knew that I needed to stand-up for myself and for safe[r] sex. I wanted a break from guys, but then I met my now boyfriend. At first, I was good at insisting on condoms. Then, we ran out, and I sheepishly asked him about STDs and testing. His response was, ‘Yeah, I don’t have any,’ and I thought, ‘Well, there is no male test for HPV,’ so that convinced me to carry-on with our evening.
I ended up with another STD and a candid discussion. He had never been tested and thought HIV could be cured!
I wasn’t outraged; I was sad.
He didn’t purposely deceive me; he was uneducated. Sexually active people still do not understand how to be tested, that it is necessary, and how to stand-up for safe[r] sex (of course there are some of you who are educated and do demand safe[r] sex – honestly, I am so happy and impressed by you; you will help lower the incidence of STDs)! 🙂
We’re still together, and [we] immediately got treated for chlamydia.
7. Do the people who know you have an STI/STD treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
I only told my boyfriend, my mom, and my cousin – they are all awesome and supportive!
8. Are you currently under treatment for your STI/STD? If so, please share whether you have explored prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or holistic and natural approaches.
I took Azithromycin for the chlamydia and *try* to be holistically healthy to help my body fight the HPV.
I am a fan of a mostly veggie diet, a variety of teas, vitamin C supplements, and a low processed-sugar intake. This is all easier said than done – grad school is a beast, I like sweets, and ramen noodles are cheap.
9. Has having an STI/STD hindered past relationships?
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STI/STD affected your partner?
He is the one that likely transmitted chlamydia to me. We are good, but I worry about infidelity, as it could pose a risk to my sexual health. I have no reason to think that he cheats, but the fear can be overwhelming (plus, growing-up, grad school, etc…).
I plan on seeing a professional for help on managing anxiety.
Potentially, due to my career choice in microbiology research, I am, sometimes, convinced that I will get cancer from HPV and secretly have HIV – I think, after actually contracting an STD, I feel vulnerable to all of them even when there is no logical reason to fear them (i.e. monogamy to the best of my knowledge). Again, I view this kind of thinking as unhealthy and intend to seek professional help.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STI/STD whom you did not tell you had an STI/STD?
I failed at clearly expressing that I have HPV in the beginning of my current relationship.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STI/STD?
I have higher anxiety now, and I have more of an understanding of incurable STDs.
There should be no guilt surrounding STDs and no fear or disgust toward those who contract them.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I am passionate about health and happiness. I want people to understand that these diseases are real and preventable, but no matter your good intentions, you can still contract them, and that’s OK, because you are not alone, not gross, not a slut, and not a bad person.
I believe, through honest conversation, we can lower the incidence of STDs.
Have safe[r] sex and get tested! Be honest to your partner and yourself!
Additionally, I dislike the way we view these diseases differently than diseases that carry ‘less moral weight’. HSV 1&2 are part of the herpesvirus family that causes chicken pox, varicella. I had chicken pox as a child and will forever carry the varicella virus as a result. If re-activated, it will be expressed as shingles (herpes zoster). Shingles is extremely painful, and in many ways, more threatening than HSV 1&2, but it carries NO stigma.
Life is FULL of disease, and living in fear of it does not make it less true; it is a fact of our past, present, and future. Furthermore, we have more bacterial cells than our own cells! By and large, bacteria help us more than hurt us.
I believe in living for joy via kindness and compassion, appreciating all biological elements.
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!