Living with an STI
By Emily, age 20, Newfoundland
Sweet Designs Featured Writer
Recently I was diagnosed with Type 1 herpes. Although Type 2 is much more common, the herpes virus is the most common STI to date, especially in universities. In America, 1 in every 4 people has the herpes virus, whether they know it or not.
Before my first outbreak I didn't think it could happen to me. All my life I'd been the "good girl". I'd never done anything against the rules, and I certainly wasn't the type of girl to have an STI. I didn't even think that people like me could get something like this. I'd always thought that people who had tons of sexual partners were the ones to get it. At 20 years old, I've only had five partners in my life, and I wound up with herpes.
My first and only outbreak to date has been the worst thing I've ever experienced in my entire life. It started with itchy bumps. At first I thought it was just chafing from my underwear because the bumps were only where my underwear would be. Eventually, after about a week, the bumps were getting painful. I went to the emergency room, and after 8 hours I was finally seen. The bumps had turned into blisters. The doctor took a sample from the blisters and started me on a course of Valtrex, the most common herpes medication on the market today.
I lived in agony all week. It became harder and harder to move around, and I was essentially in bed for a week because it was too painful to move. Peeing was the hardest thing. I held it in for hours at a time because I dreaded to have to release it. Then I discovered that holding it in was making it worse. The salt content of my urine was what made peeing so painful on the open sores. Eventually the blisters started getting better and I could finally move around.
I got my test results a week after I'd gotten swabbed. I tested positive for Type 1 herpes. For those of you who don't know the difference, Type 1 herpes is more commonly known as a cold sore. Doctors have only recently discovered that the virus that causes cold sores on the mouth can be transferred to the genitals. I had to tell all the sexual partners I've ever had. I still don't know from whom I got it or how. The only good thing, if there is a good thing, is that people with Type 1 herpes usually only have one outbreak in their entire life. Those who have more than one outbreak usually find that after the first, the symptoms are much less severe. Type 1 is also less likely to be passed, but there is still a chance of passing the disease.
The scariest part about herpes is that you could live with it for years and never have any symptoms to speak of. Unfortunately, many STI's are the same way.
I'm not trying to scare any of you from having sex. I'm just trying to make you more aware of the consequences of high risk sexual behavior. Herpes comes with all kinds of consequences, the worst being the emotional damage that comes with the disease. It's incurable and it can lead to worse diseases. For example, people who live with herpes are more likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS because of the open sores. So think about these things beforehand. Am I really ready for the risks and responsibilities that come with this choice? If I choose to have sex, what do I know about my partner's sexual history? Is my partner high risk due to past behaviors? Have I done what I can to protect myself (in other words, are we using a condom)?
The safest thing to do is to get you and your new partner tested together. If he says no, then the relationship wasn't meant to be anyway. It's better to be safe than sorry. After all, legally you have to inform all of your new sexual partners that you have this disease.
So make good choices, be smart, and stay safe.