American Sexual
Health Association

ASHA has long collected stories from individuals willing to share their experiences with STIs. While we use these in our patient advocacy work, we also share them here as a way to help others and show how common, and manageable, such experiences are.

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. All submissions are property of ASHA and can be edited for length and clarity. Due to the large volume of emails we receive, we regret we cannot provide a response to every email. If you’re looking for information, referrals or materials, please browse our website. Questions about STIs can be posted on our online support site at Inspire. We also offer a paid service at Ask the Experts.

I have had HSV-1 since I was a kid and HSV-2 since I was 19. I’m 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!

Like many, I was/am pretty well educated on STDs. However, I still felt that I was “invincible” to sexual diseases and NEVER would have expected to get one.

I have had three partners—all long-term serious relationships. At age seventeen, I was 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 my 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.

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.

All I really knew about herpes before my initial outbreak was that it had no cure, but it wouldn’t kill me. Still, I was devastated, and very angry. I contracted HSV-2 shortly before I began a relationship with the man I would eventually marry. Life can be so cruel. The stigma and shame of herpes was bearing down on me when I had “That Talk” with my boyfriend. For me, his reaction said a lot about his character. As I wrote in 1995, in a journal I kept during graduate school, “I was surprised by how calmly he received the news. He was clearly more concerned about me than himself…I was also surprised to hear him tell me that one of his best friends has herpes. ‘We’ll just have to be careful,’ he said.” No wonder I married this man. I hope this story gives relief and hope to those who may fear that having herpes is an automatic “deal-breaker” for intimacy and marriage.

A lot has changed for me in the last twelve years of living with herpes. I earned my Ph.D and have a successful career in healthcare research. I got married, remain happily so, and started a family. There’s no denying that herpes complicated my life. I had a terrible time with recurrent outbreaks after the initial one, and still get outbreaks on occasion. Yet, this virus, annoying as it is, did not change the course of my life. With or without herpes, life is a gift to be cherished each day. I wish I did not have herpes, but compared to many other chronic conditions, it is quite manageable.

I just want to take a moment to thank everyone who wrote in and to share my story. I was just diagnosed with high-risk HPV yesterday. What a roller coaster ride this has been. I received a call about about two weeks ago from my gynecologist’s secretary, in an OB/GYN practice, that I had to make an appointment to discuss my results. How nerve-wrecking it was to get a phone call like that. What made the whole situation worse is that I could not come in for my appointment until more than a week and a half later.

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. 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 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!!!

I am a 29 year-old woman, recently diagnosed with genital herpes (HSV-2). For days and nights after my original diagnosis, the four simple words “I have genital herpes” haunted me. I had so many questions running through my mind. What will people say? How will I find someone who will want to be with me? If I feel uncomfortable in my own skin, how could anyone want to be around me?

I had so many questions and a doctor who couldn’t be bothered, so I went looking for information on my own. I stumbled upon the ASHA website and the online forum and found a wealth of knowledge there, along with many other people in the same predicament as me. I was able to come to grips with my situation and know that I cannot change the past. I cannot blame anyone for catching this virus, and doing so will not help matters.

Once I was adjusted enough, I told my mother. She was sad and worried, but is very supportive of me. After I got a positive reaction from her, I told two of my closest friends. They were both shocked, but also very caring. They asked me a lot of questions and I proved to myself and to them that I am well educated now about my situation.

When one of them looked at me and said, “Wow, maybe I should go get tested, it’s been a while,” I knew talking about it was a good thing. I know I am raising awareness.

The true test was when an old friend came to visit me. He and I had known each other a long time but were just friends. It became very clear very fast that things were different between us, and before I knew it, he kissed me!

I was shocked and amazed that someone found me interesting but then I remembered he didn’t know. I was so nervous but I KNEW I had to tell him—and right away, before things got carried away. I didn’t cry when I told him, but I was close. He was shocked but also understanding and asked some questions. I told him I understood if he didn’t want to go any farther than friendship because of this and he laughed at me. He is now my boyfriend and very positive about the situation. He has read up about herpes on the message board the website and has no problem talking to me about “my friend H.” It has really helped me relax and enjoy this wonderful new relationship.

I have also taken the initiative to find a new doctor and I found one willing to take the time to talk to me. We discussed suppressive therapy and all my options—NO problem.

I can truly agree with my comment of “I have genital herpes”—because it doesn’t have me! I am in control now thanks to a good doctor, great support from friends and family and a positive outlook on life.

I was diagnosed with herpes three years ago and thought I would never be able to date again. I was shocked, hurt, devastated, and felt violated. I dreaded the day when I would have to tell a boyfriend my story. I remember reading other people’s testimonials on the ASHA website saying how they told their significant others and it wasn’t as hard as they thought. I didn’t believe how that could be true, but at the same time I knew I could never have a serious relationship with someone without sharing this secret. I rationalized that it would be a good test; if someone cared enough about me, then me having herpes wouldn’t put a stop on our relationship.

When I finally told my boyfriend (BEFORE sex) I was laughing more than I was crying (which is what I expected to be doing), and I was shocked at how easy it was to tell the right person. Someone who cares about you won’t think it’s the end of the world. I told him expecting the worst, but he pleasantly surprised me, and I care about him more for it. And I feel so much better getting it out in the open, and I think we’ll be closer.

Of course, I wish more than anything that I never had to go through this, but I just want other girls to know that most decent guys aren’t going to care!I’m a stronger person, and even though at one point I thought my life was over, I know now, it’s just beginning.

I found out I was infected with chlamydia a few months ago. About 2 months before that I was pregnant with my first child, which now I have found out that I miscarried my child because I was infected. I advise all to use protection as i can tell you it was hard enough finding out I had chlamydia let alone finding out it was the cause of my miscarriage!

Now I have tried to fall pregnant again…I was extremely fertile before I had chlamydia and now I can’t even fall pregnant again. I’ve decided to just give my body a rest and just hope that I can conceive again. And to make things worse I will never no how long I had the infection for as my past partners refuse to be tested! So I’m stuck wandering who I caught it from and who I may have given it to. I had no symptoms that I noticed then now I know more about it I can say why didn’t I think something was wrong before!! It was because I didn’t know about it. I just hope that people will read this and think more carefully when going out or having sex because you always say to yourself “Oh well that’ll never happen to me,” and then it does and it ruins your life!

Thank you and I hope my story can help people to realize that you can get it and it can happen to you!

I just found out about a month ago that I have the type of HPV that causes warts. It had been six months since I broke up with my boyfriend of 4 years so needless to say it was a another sting to an open wound, since I had not been with anyone since our breakup. I was so scared and angry when diagnosed. I’m 29 now and I had always been aware of STDs, and I made my last two boyfriends get checked for STDs before I had unprotected sex. Little did I know about HPV and that men could be carriers and not know it.

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.

I found out that I contracted herpes in September 2005. It was really difficult to tell my partner who I’d been with for five years, because I feared the first thing he’d think is that I cheated on him. I couldn’t stop crying in the doctor’s office. I didn’t know what to do and went into denial.

I was trying to educate myself more on the virus when I found this site (ASHA). Now that I accepted the fact that I have herpes and I just have to live with it, there were still issues with the love of my life. I educated my partner about the virus, even though he was still upset and confused. To make a long story short, he told me that he loves me and that we can get through this together . . . he is not going anywhere.

On Christmas in 2005, my boyfriend proposed to me, and we set a wedding date for next summer. I am really happy, and I found out how much he really loves me for who I am. I just wanted to share my story because the other stories on your site helped me emotionally when I found out I have this virus. There is life after herpes . . . don’t let this virus get you down.. Remember that a person is supposed to love you for who you are, and not what you have. HERPES SHOULD NOT STOP ANY OF US.

I am a 25 year old woman that was diagnosed with HPV about 2 months ago. I received an abnormal Pap smear result. I told my boyfriend at the time what was going on, and he flipped out, blaming me and yelling that I gave him this virus. I went for the colposcopy, and found out I had mild-moderate dysplasia and would have to have a LEEP procedure. I was terrified. I asked how I got the virus and what it was. When my doctor told me it was an STD, I started crying, thinking it was impossible. I had several partners in the past years, but made sure I always wore a condom and had thought I was being very careful. My doctor then explained to me that condom use does not always protect against HPV. I was outraged. I felt that for years, people have been lied to in a way. Education about sex and condoms does not include the fact that condoms do not protect against HPV.

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.

I’m a 16 year old sophomore in high school. During my first year in high school I had sex. Ever since then, things haven’t been the same. I really want to go to a clinic and get tested for HIV/AIDS and STDs but I’m scared to let my parents know that I’m sexually active.

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.

ASHA’s reply: In general, teens have the right to access STI services without parental permission, but there may be some clinics or providers that do require parents to be notified. However, you can find places where you can be tested confidentially. If you have a local Planned Parenthood, you can call them to see if they provide confidential testing, or search for an STD clinic in your area and ask about confidential services.

I was first diagnosed with high-risk HPV about a year and a half ago, with the discovery of genital warts on a follow-up visit after biopsy. Even though I consider myself relatively well-informed and compassionate on the subject of STD transmission (i.e. they aren’t necessarily caught due to promiscuous behavior, I didn’t think any less of someone who had one), I wasn’t prepared for the feelings of shame, guilt, and fear I experienced.

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.

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.