Do you have experiences relating to sexual health that you would be willing to share with others? Concerns? Triumphs? Challenges? Advice?
We (and other visitors to our site) want to hear from you. Read the stories below to see what others are saying. You probably have insights that others would benefit from hearing, and we encourage you to share your story with us.
ASHA sincerely appreciates all submissions and each is confidential and anonymous. It is ASHA’s intent to collect these comments for use in our patient advocacy work. All submissions are property of ASHA and can be edited for length and clarity. Due to the large volume of emails, we regret we cannot provide a response to each submission. If you are seeking information, referrals or materials, please browse our website for information and resources. Questions about STIs can be posted on our online support site at Inspire.
I have had HSV-1 since I was a kid and HSV-2 since I was 19. I am 40 now. After all these years, I have this to share with anyone who’s been newly diagnosed with genital herpes: Do not be ashamed of yourself for having on your genitals what most people have on their mouths! It just doesn’t make sense. Most people have this virus on their mouths, and yet we don’t shame them, make them self-disclose before each kiss, think they are dirty, or get scared of kissing them between outbreaks!
If I had a magic wand I would get rid of herpes stigma. I would do this even before I’d use the magic wand to create a herpes cure. This infection rarely cause me any trouble. I’ve had flea bites that hurt worse than an outbreak. What I suffer from is people’s judgement and ignorance. And I’ve been very lucky — in 20 years of having this virus, few people have rejected me, and were polite when they did. I’ve heard terrible horror stories about the kind of rejection others have gotten. And it’s simply not fair, not logical, and doesn’t follow medical facts.
I used to get angry by the rejection. It’s a very small risk at an infection that causes mild symptoms! But what they really risk is catching something that stigmatizes them. They don’t want to catch the stigma. No one wants to suffer from the stigma, and it’s the stigma we need to fight.
Don’t be ashamed! You’re still as good and worthy and beautiful as you were before.
I found out I had HPV when I was 25 years old. At first the doctors told me it was nothing to worry about, that it would probably go away on its own. I had no idea at the time what type of HPV I had nor did I know that some types of the virus are linked to cervical cancer. No one told me! I had normal Paps for 3 years after that and it did not seem like a big deal until at 28 I was diagnosed with CIN-3 [significant cervical pre-cancer] and had a LEEP. That freaked me out big time. I went through all the common feelings of guilt and shame. I told potential sexual partners about HPV and I did not have one guy freak out on me. They were all really cool about it. It helps that since men don’t have a cervix, there really is no real fear of cancer–the incidence of HPV-related penile cancer is extremely low.
At the end of the day, I don’t know who gave me HPV and I don’t really care anymore. What I do know is that in some ways HPV has been a very positive thing in my life. Having HPV taught me how to speak up and be honest, how to take care of myself better (stress is an aggravating factor) and most of all, to become my own advocate. To all of you out there struggling with this diagnosis, know that you are not alone. Millions of people have HPV, even if they don’t talk about it. You are not damaged or defective in any way. You are perfect just as you are. Take some deep breaths and know that everything is going to be OK!
I went for my routine yearly check up but this time I went to a different gynecologist thinking that it will be just another boring consultation where they just make me uncomfortable. Dr. Watson started explaining what HPV is and how many women die of cervical cancer, she also said that she only uses the liquid Pap test as it is more accurate than the conventional Pap test. With the innovation of the liquid pap test, 100 percent of the sample is sent to the lab. This means technicians have more cells to make a determination from and have a clearer sample to look at. Lab technicians who read these slides say the difference is like night and day between the traditional Pap and the new liquid technology. I just heard “blah-blah-blah” and couldn’t wait to leave. Dr. Watson looked at me and with a very strict voice said, “Women are not educated enough about these things and think ‘It can’t happen to me.'” This is when I though, “Well I’m very healthy so it cannot happen to me.” I went home waiting for the little piece of paper to arrive in the post saying “normal” but instead Dr. Watson phoned me a week later to make an appointment for a biopsy as there were pre-cancerous cells detected caused by HPV.
Suddenly everything stopped. My busy day at work did not matter anymore. Nothing mattered anymore. I can die for crying out loud!! My head was spinning with all these questions. I was so angry to think that I did go for my normal Pap test every year and wasted all that money because not once did they pick it up?
After a long 4 day wait I went back to the gynecologist. I was strapped in like a horse when she performed the biopsy and promised myself never to complain again when going for a Pap test. Dr. Watson phoned me a few days later as she needed to discuss the results with me and that she has scheduled an operation. My whole world stopped again. I could believe my ears. The test results showed that I have HPV type 16 and CIN III, the liquid test only showed CIN II. The worst part was when she said that if she cannot get everything out, I will have to go for a hysterectomy after three months, which means no babies! I’m 27 years old and she is telling me no babies!! I was hysterical.
While lying on the operating table I thought of all the people having such a jolly time with their families, it’s not fair but I know my life is much more worth than a slice of Christmas cake. I am one lucky girl as Dr. Watson confirmed the operation to be very successful, the end is almost here!!
After a week or two of unchanged status in the warts I went to the city clinic where I endured the gambit of STD testing as well as a visual examination of the growths. The doctor offered an acid treatment, but recommended a consultation for laser surgery, in which case, she preferred I had nothing done at this point. I don’t have health insurance and although I called and made an appointment at the city hospital, I don’t foresee laser removal as a realistic option.
Here is where the story gets a little strange. Two weeks ago, my girlfriend scheduled an HPV/Pap test to check herself out. One week ago she received the results: negative! Negative?? Prior to communicating my concerns for my own health I had revealed to my girlfriend that she was my first and only, despite comments I may have made that made it sound I were a bit more seasoned in intimate relationships. This fact is true. I have nothing to gain (and everything to lose) by lying about this further. So I found myself in a precarious situation which almost wanted her test to come out positive so we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what was happening to me and if it was serious.
I scheduled for more testing at a clinic closer to where I lived in the suburbs. The visual examination here was much more definitive and decisive. The doctor immediately identified the growths as genital warts and treated them immediately with acid. I am to return to the clinic for continued treatments until the warts disappear. But now my girlfriend is left in a situation even more ambiguous than when we began. I explained the test results to the doctor at the second clinic to which she said that “It didn’t matter,” and she could still have some kind of lesion that caused this in the first place.
Our situation never degenerated into rampant distrust. I knew she had multiple partners in the past and she knew of my virginity after revealing it later on. I still love her very much, perhaps even now more so because revealing this to other family and friends and relying on their support would shame me to an exponential level. I could never live with that knowledge in their hands. This is something I must hide from all others in my life, but found the need to tell my tale during research into diagnosis and treatment. Here are the most important things I learned from this experience thus far:
- It is much better to have health insurance and consequently, doctors and staff who seem more interested in wanting to actually help you.
- People that work in the clinics are very focused on HIV testing. If you want them to look or test for something else, you MUST TELL THEM and you can only do that by doing some research on your own first. Again, bear in mind these doctors are more like factory line workers with your problems as opposed to a PCP.
- Go for a second opinion, especially if the first one is free.
- If you must keep things quiet to other friends and family, your partner is your only support. Continue to love him or her or end the relationship quickly!
- Although some clinics have “counselors,” they are not the sort that actually talk to you and try to make you feel better after a positive viral diagnosis. This will require a LOT of soul searching if you don’t have a shrink and almost unbearable if you are not speaking with your partner.
I have had three partners—all long-term serious relationships. At age seventeen, I’m not what most would expect an “HPV infected person(s)” to be. I graduated two years early, I was a cheerleader for my college, I graduated high school with a 4.0, I’ve held 2 state beauty pageant titles, and currently hold a local title on my way to state! The important thing is—NO ONE is invincible, and it can happen to ANYBODY. That’s part of the risk we take being sexually active.
In my case, knowledge is power. I discovered “skin-tag-like” warts on and around my vaginal opening. I figured it was an allergic reaction to a bubble bath or something. After a week of no improvements, I did research on genital warts on the internet. I was almost positive I had them. I told me mother and we went to the doctor, and I am now undergoing treatment.
Unlike many others, I was able to trace the source of my STD. It was my first boyfriend and first partner. He had no idea he was carrying the virus (since there are often no symptoms). Since me, he has had over 10 partners…meaning possibly infecting over 10 people. They say, “You sleep with whoever your partner has slept with.” Never has the saying affected me more. I called him and told him what I had, what he had, what he should do (regarding telling his past partners), treatment he should seek, and other key facts. Once again, knowledge is power.
I also called my most recent ex and partner in addition to the first. I was screamed at, and cursed, and he even threatened to kill me. It brought out a side I had never seen. It hurt, but I did the right thing. I now understand why STD prevention may be difficult–it is hard to tell someone, especially when you get such a harsh reaction. I can’t lie. It was embarrassing, heartbreaking, and shameful. But as I told him, STDs are just one part of the risk we take from being sexually active, especially as teens.
Now to my third partner—my fiance. I have infected him. We are going to a clinic (so his parents won’t find out) next week for him. Luckily there are many low cost and even free STD screening and treatment centers for cases just like this. It was so hard for us to get through this. He, unlike me, waited for “the one” before having sex. Being honored, I never once thought that I might be capable of transmitting a disease to him. As he put it at first, “It’s like working and working and working hard for something your whole life- and then having it blow up in your face.”
Yes, I gave my love an STD. The “perfect” varsity player with perfect grades. We found out that knowledge/education and communication is key. Though my communication issues were a bit more than just between us, it was something that had to be done. Something to think about. My first partner was angry, and so embarrassed, he refuses to tell the 10+ people he slept with. Assuming they follow a pattern, in a years span (since he started having sex with others)- they sleep with three males. That’s over 30 people infected because of someone not speaking the truth.
I have HPV. So does my fiance. We are normal- perhaps even considered “exceptional”—college students. His past: 0 partners. My past: 2 partners. All protected sex. We have HPV for the rest of my life. But we get through it together.
Afterwards, I walked to my car, put my head down on my steering wheel and hyperventilated for a while— disbelief is what I like to call it. “Everyone has a skeleton and a closet to keep it in”—he’s mine. I wonder if he knows what he did. A few months later, I was diagnosed with HPV. He took everything from me, but at least he gave me something in return. “You’ve left me with nothing, but I’ve worked with less.”
Growing up in a life filled with sexual abuse and betrayal, my only defense is to forget…even when it’s happening. HPV makes it hard to forget – I am defenseless, now. When I was diagnosed, my doctor told me nothing about what I had and treated it as if it was nothing. I guess it probably was for her – she wasn’t on that table in nothing but a hospital gown. She didn’t shiver on top of that crinkly white paper while someone stuck something up inside her – maybe I shouldn’t have cared either. All these years I have been alone in my struggle with self-respect and trust. I have kept quiet, leaving my pain in little jars that I sometimes like to touch, trying to remember what it’s like to feel.
“I’ve been treated so wrong, I’ve been treated so long as if I’m becoming untouchable.” My saving grace was the hope that one day I would be far enough from my experiences that they wouldn’t hurt anymore. Last May, all of that changed with the diagnosis of HPV – a silent reminder of the pain that will follow me the rest of my life.
I recently entered into a relationship with the man that I hope to be my husband one day. He has been infinitely patient with me and with all of my fears. The second date we went on, we sat in the dark after watching a movie. Upon request, he gave me a pen and a piece of paper and waited while I scrawled a note to him stating that I had been raped and that I had HPV. I told him that he could take me or leave me, but to do it now. He didn’t leave.
The past couple of days, this “infection” has been especially painful…both physically and mentally. I had never realized that HPV could lead to cervical cancer – no one ever told me. I found out when a commercial came on TV about asking for the HPV test. I spent many nights doing research before the ad came on TV, but I just got frustrated and felt more and more disgusting. I couldn’t see through my tears to really understand what I was reading. When I saw that ad, it was as if someone had lifted a curtain and light came shining through.
The man I spoke of previously sent me an email today, with a link to this website in it. He pleaded with me to just take a look. He tried to tell me that I shouldn’t be ashamed, that I wasn’t alone.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this and I know that you will cut this down if you decide to put it up on your site. It’s ok even if you decide not to put it up at all. I’m not going to read over what I’ve written so that I don’t decide not to send it. Whoever you are, you’re one of the precious few that has any idea that this has happened to me. I’m sorry if this has been hard to understand… I’m just tired of silence. I just want someone to know.
In February this year I went on for my annual Pap test and I found out I have HPV. I did not know anything about this disease. That man gave it to me. At first I thought my life was ruined, I had to talk with my boyfriend and with my father, who’s a doctor. So I did. It’s been difficult but my boyfriend decided to support me and he s still fighting with me, despite I could give him HPV. Today I’ve been told that I have high risk HPV, so I decided to write my story. HPV won’t let me down, I’ll fight and I’ll win. I thank God for my boyfriend support, and I thank your website for all your precious information.
I racked my brain for so long to try and figure out who gave it to me…was it my boyfriend…did he cheat on me…did he already have it and not know it…did I have it before we dated and not know it?? I have finally been able to release all of those questions because I know it only adds stress to my life and will not make the HPV go away.
I’m still working on clearing the warts and regaining my spirit and health. I know in time it will all work out and it has defiantly made me respect my body that much more. Of the three friends that I talked to about my HPV, two of them confided that they have the high-risk HPV. Knowing that I’m not alone has really helped and has made me feel normal again.
I’m still scared to date and unsure how to deal with this. Two doctors I have spoken to have told me that in the beginning as long as I’m using condoms and I’m wart free I don’t need to tell anyone. But I wear my heart on my sleeve and I just don’t think I could be intimate with someone without them knowing. Plus at this point in my life I don’t feel the need to have sex with anyone until I know them well enough to have an STD talk. After all I still have to respect my body and do the best I can to protect myself from other STDs, and anyone that does not respect that is not someone I want to be intimate with.
To make a long story short, I went for a Pap smear a year ago, and I was shocked to find that the result was abnormal. I couldn’t imagine how I could have contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
My family physician probably did not want to alarm me, so he merely suggested that I follow a regimen of special douches for a few months and then come back to see him after that. However, he did not tell me I had HPV. I assumed it was a minor problem such as a chronic yeast infection—although I was not experiencing any symptoms—so I did not go back. He did not call to follow-up, either. I changed jobs and doctors, and the first thing I did was go for a physical with a Pap smear; I was curious to see whether that yeast infection had disappeared. When the Pap smear was abnormal again, I was scared. And, I was angry with my previous physician for not telling me the facts. Had I known the abnormal Pap smear meant HPV, I certainly would have followed up with a treatment program. I would encourage all physicians to be honest with their patients, and to provide information about HPV with every Pap smear.
Most importantly, I believe that stress is the reason for my suppressed immune system. More research needs to focus on the effects of stress on health. Thank you.
I tried to get as much information as possible about my results from the secretary and was told–in a not so pleasant way-—”all I can tell you is that is has something to do with your Pap smear.” So, I made the appointment and and tried to go on with business as usual…but of course I couldn’t. I did tons of internet searches on Pap Smear results and soon discovered HPV. After doing as much reading as I could possibly do, I came to the conclusion that I had HPV.
What is sad is that I am a public health professional and did not know about high-risk HPV. I only associated HPV with genital warts. I never knew that there was an HPV that was wart-less and caused cervical cancer. I know I made some not-too-bright decisions regarding my sexual activity, but for the most part I have always been pretty careful. I was regularly tested for STDs and had my partners tested for STDs when we started having a sexual relationship. I have only had 3 sexual partners and did not lose my virginity until I was 23. I’m 28 now.
When my doctor diagnosed me yesterday with HPV, even though I knew that this diagnosis was a very strong possibility, I was absolutely shocked. I have never had an STD before. I spent most of yesterday in a daze and remained in complete disbelief for the remainder of the day. But today is a brand new day and I am filled with brand new hope.
I want everyone on this website to feel as comfortable with being diagnosed with HPV as I now do. The truth is that almost every sexually active person will be diagnosed with HPV at some point in their lives…and it is not the end of the world. In fact, HPV testing is not a standard screen because it is so common. It doesn’t make sense to make a big deal out of it if its not causing any problems…which is often the case. But when an abnormal Pap Smear shows up, then you test for HPV so you can discover the origin of the abnormal cells. The good news is that regular Pap Smears can stop the progression of abnormal cells in their tracks. What’s even better news is that a healthy immune system naturally fights HPV and most people will test negative for HPV within a year or two—or even less.
The thing is, the virus is so common, its possible that you can be infected several times. The key for women is to be sure to have Pap tests regularly. Men, apparently you’re not affected at all by high-risk HPV. There are no clinical manifestations for you and no tests to determine if you have it. But you can give it to your sexual partner and if your partner has a cervix, it can infect her cervix and lead to abnormal cell growth.
I say all of this to say… KEEP YOUR HEAD UP. YOU WILL BE ALL RIGHT!!!
Thank you and I hope my story can help people to realize that you can get it and it can happen to you!
Many of my peers are going through the same thing with me. We want to get tested but refuse to tell our parents. This isn’t so good because, what if we are infected? How would we know? Would the infection only get worse? Well the point I’m trying to get across is that, there should clinics for teens to go to without their parents to get tested. I’m not saying this just because I’m terrified of my parents, but it’s been a thought on my mind for a while. Most teens would rather sit and let their infection grow other than telling their parents to take them to a clinic. Pregnancy testing shouldn’t be the only thing a teen can do without their parents’ consent. Please give me some feedback, maybe there are clinics that I don’t know about.
Editors note: You can search for a clinic that offers STD testing near you.
The emotional strain this put on my relationship caused us to break up. I went in shortly thereafter for my LEEP procedure. I have been healing for about three weeks and am going for a checkup soon. I am scared that the Pap smear will come back abnormal again. I talked with my doctor previously to the LEEP and he found in my past Pap smears (dating 3 years ago), there was dysplasia present, just not severe enough to treat. They had assumed it would go away by itself. It is inconclusive if the strain I have now is recurrent or a new one, but it’s startling to think I have had this for so long without even knowing it.
In the past couple weeks, I started a relationship with another guy, and the subject of past sexual history came up. I took a chance and told him about the HPV, explaining what it was and how it’s contracted. He was very understanding, and admitted he had heard of the effects of the virus, but had never heard of HPV. The question still remains whether or not to abstain from sex, we have really hit it off and things are moving at a nice pace, but it was heart wrenching to tell him what was going on with me. I believe I got lucky with his reaction, as there is such a stigma surrounding the idea of contracting a STD. It is important people are educated on the fact that this is not your normal STD. Even with precautions, it is very contagious. I feel better knowing that myself, but I also feel people will not find out about this unless they are infected.
I do want to thank you for posting un-biased information on HPV. You made me feel like a person again, not a statistic.
At age 24, I started my career in hotel management, continued coaching little league and singing gospel music along the east coast. At age 28 is when I came “out of the closet” to my parents that I was gay and I was condemned to hell from my family. It was then that I left Lexington and moved to North Carolina continuing my career in hotel management, continuing my singing and visiting churches that loved me even though I was gay and allowed me to worship with them.
It is now the year 2000. I moved to Richmond and I met my life partner Brad in March and started a relationship that has blessed me tremendously. Have we had problems? Yes, the devil intervened and not being able to find a church that I was happy with, I backslid.
Four years later on July 22, 2004 at 7:00AM. While working 11-7 that night I developed some health problems that I had to seek medical attention for. It was then that I was diagnosed with HIV. I can still remember how I felt those first few minutes after the doctor had told me I had HIV. My partner Brad stood in the window waiting for some bad news but he never expected this bad news. So many questions crossed my mind at that time. Was my partner of 4 years going to leave me? How long was I going to live? Who gave it to me? What were my parents going to say? How many friends will I loose? It was a month later after having a biopsy that I was told also that not only did I have HIV but I had tuberculosis.
For months after my diagnosis I was bedridden. The side affect that I had from my HIV and TB medications were so severe that I remember telling my partner, “if this is what it takes to survive, I’m not sure I want to live”. Not able to eat anything solid for months I lost 39 pounds.
The good news is since my diagnosis I have found my reason for living. I don’t believe my health problems are because I am gay but because I needed a wake up call from God to get back into the ministry. The wake up call worked.
I would consider the thought process of a teenager (middle school-12-13 years old and high school 13-18). These are the groups that are having sex and not using protection. These students need to understand the implications of the choices of they make and changing meanings and definitions are just going to confuse the issue. Please reconsider the change from STD to STI.
I went to the doctor and he performed some biopsies taking 4 pieces from my cervix which hurt tremendously. Another week went by and I received a call telling me that I had all 3 signs of precancerous cells on my cervix, calling it dysplasia (not one word of HPV or whatever I had). I was then scheduled for cervical laser surgery and told that it should take care of all my problems. The follow up pap was supposed to be 3 months after the surgery but due to cancellations and delays and emergencies (was supposed to be August ended up late February the next year). This time the follow up was with my family doctor and as I was having the pap I asked him about these really small itchy bumps I could feel there and I wanted to know what they were.
He told me rather abruptly and without care “The doctor had to have told you that you have HPV and also genital warts when he treated you right?” Well let’s just say my mouth dropped and I was stunned. I not only didn’t know that I had HPV I had no clue I had genital warts until that moment and I really didn’t even understand what he said. I came home and started reading up on it and as you can imagine i became increasingly upset. I hadn’t been with anyone for 8 years before this guy, and had never had an abnormal pap before that. I was devastated, he put me on Aldara for 16 weeks and all it did was make them itchier and larger. He then determined to laser them off. The healing for that took a month and now I am scarred with pigment loss where all the lesions were. I have had a few come back which have been acid removed but still it’s one of the most depressing, hardest things I have ever had to deal with. Telling potential partners is terribly hard.
I haven’t seen any in about 7 months now so hoping it’s finally, hopefully, going to clear up as far as being there visibly. I have been dealing with this for 5 years now and not sure if it will ever end. I have heard of a few here who have gotten this HPV and because they are lesion-free for 6 months they feel they have gotten rid of it, therefore not telling partners about it. I am totally upset about the misconceptions about this STD, as it gets so many people and they don’t think anything of it.
When I told one of the girls where I worked that I had pre-cancerous cells on my cervix she matter of fact told me that she’s had that done 4 times. I don’t think she was aware of how bad this can be. Unfortunately for me I was passed on at least 2 types, the low risk and the high risk and I was not informed by my own doctor at the time. By the doctor taking a year to tell me I feel that was irresponsible as I may have infected someone in that year.
That’s what happened to me, hopefully they will come up with something that will get rid of this in people who already have it and not just prevent it from happening. Thank you for reading my story.
I strongly believe in monosex partner in life time and have been practicing my belief. Here I am ended up with a STD.
Although I tried to go in for a colposcopy as soon as possible, in hindsight I was not emotionally prepared. The doctor, who was highly recommended but simply average at my visit, could not perform a biopsy because I was physically shaking. At the time, I was dealing with graduation from college, a love affair gone wrong, problems with anxiety, and the fact that I now had an STD. The reason many women find putting off treatment a viable option most likely has to do with the fact that their diagnosis is hidden. To this day most of my friends, not to mention my family, do not know that I have been treated for cervical dysplasia and genital warts. Even if a person has every good intention to seek treatment, having to live with a disease as a secret makes it that much more terrifying to admit that, “yes, I have an STD,” when it comes time to make those appointments.
I do not consider myself squeamish or easily intimidated by gynecological exams, but every time I went in to get treated I was overcome with feelings of sadness, anger, and fear. I also moved to a new city in the interim, and it took nearly four months to get all my paperwork in one place even though my boyfriend worked at the institute where my new gynecologist is. I can only imagine how hard it is for everyone who has to get their records in order without professional help.
I would also postulate that because HPV is an invisible epidemic, it is easier to go without treatment. Silent diseases are easy to ignore. Thanks to the work done on AIDS, cancer, and other high-profile diseases, no one would argue that anyone with these diseases should put off treatment. But for ailments such as HPV, thryoid dysfunction, and PMDD (which, interestingly enough, all of whose effects are more prominent or only occur in women), many people go throughout their lives without even a diagnosis, much less full treatment.
Thank you again for providing this valuable resource. Every article or new statistic we have access to allows us to shed a bit more secrecy and come to accept both the fact of having HPV, and preparing ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally for all necessary treatment.