My relationship with… an STI

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Last day of term before Christmas, my first boyfriend, and my first STI.  I had entered my first real relationship and had sex for the first time, having finally plucked up the courage to do so. However, the lack of a condom was a thought that remained at the back of my mind. All it takes is that one time you’re not careful enough though, despite my boyfriend having been checked in the past and the results coming up negative.

Over the holidays we went to be tested at our respective homes. He was diagnosed with an STI called Mycoplasma Genitalium, or MG for short, but I was given the all clear. The reason his tests had come up negative in the past is that this STI isn’t tested for unless you are showing the appropriate symptoms. It is caused by the smallest known bacterium that can replicate itself, and humans can be infected for years without knowing. Most people have never heard of this infection as it hides behind diseases such as chlamydia and becomes antibiotic resistant, which can lead to infertility in women. In total they estimate that around 3,000 women in the UK a year could become infertile as a result of this infection – not a statistic I wanted to find on the internet at the time.

But why wasn’t I diagnosed? This was because I was showing no symptoms, and therefore my clinic did not prescribe me any antibiotics. My boyfriend, on the other hand, was given the appropriate medication that I should have also been taking. I had to take a train to his clinic around 2-3 hours away from me to be given the appropriate test again and then the correct medication. This happened 3 times because the antibiotics failed to kill the infection. Three times I had to sit in a waiting room waiting for an appointment, three times I had to lay on a bench and have a stranger inspect me and three times I had to take strong antibiotics that had some nasty side effects. All because I didn’t use a condom.

A young adult in the UK is diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection every four minutes. And yet somehow, I felt like it was only me. One in two sexually active people will contract an STI by the age of 25. Now I’m almost 20, meaning there must be at least one other person I know that’s had one, and yet no one talks about it. People talk about sex, people talk about getting ill, but why are STIs still such a taboo? I’ve painted a reasonably grisly picture here to demonstrate how unpleasant it can be and how easily it can be prevented. However, they are also just something that happen, and they don’t make you dirty, they don’t make you a slut and they shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of. For example, the wonderful Jonathan VanNess from the TV show Queer Eye has bravely shared his story of living with HIV. What I mean to say is that getting an STI can happen to anyone, and, if it happens to you, be open, tell people and get checked. So many of these issues are treatable now by a simple 7-day course of antibiotics with no long-term side effects. To this day. I have not told my mum about my STI experience because it fills me with dread to open up about, and we actually have a very honest relationship. So don’t do as I did, be open and help end the controversy and shame surrounding STIs.

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