Culture, HPV, Sex, sexual health -

The HPV Infection and Me: How I Kicked Ass and Took Control of My Sexual Health

Don't sweat your HPV diagnosis.

If you’re over the age of 30, you’re going to get tested for an HPV  infection during your annual exam; and if you’ve had sex, you’re more than likely going to have this incredibly common, not-a-big-deal virus.

Right before I turned 31, I found out that I had an HPV infection. Back then, I had a lot of hangups about all things sexual, so, I totally freaked out. I assumed I was going to die of cancer, felt like a “dirty slut whore” — my actual words to my mother — and, in general, lost sleep for about a year.

My reaction was incredibly illogical because little did I know, I’d be living with the virus — like it or not — for the better part of three years.

While I admit I totally overreacted to my incredibly common diagnosis, I get why I did. In the past, I had dated men who had ridiculed past girlfriends for having the virus. I also was woefully undereducated about how the virus was transmitted. Sure, I always used condoms, but much like Lena Dunham’s character on “Girls,” I wasn’t totally clear on what viruses a person could contract while using a condom… Yeah, HPV is one of those viruses.

In addition to my personal hangups about sex, etc., I also was under the care of a doctor who was incredibly unprofessional — we’re talking me, smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-a-PTSD-flashback-with-my-feet-in-the-stirrups-while-she-ridicules-me-for-crying-during-a-colposcopy unprofessional.

Yeah, I was working against a lot when I got diagnosed. However, during the time I was “infected” with the virus, I did a lot of soul-searching and learned a lot about sexual health.

For example, if it wasn’t for this incredibly common diagnosis, I wouldn’t now know the following things:

1. You can, in fact, have a gynecologist who doesn’t belittle you while examining your bits. Since my horrible ordeal in that Kansas medical office, I’ve been to two other gynos who were the definition of professional and awesome. The first doctor treated my incredibly low-stage pre-cancer cells that were caused by HPV via a laser procedure. This doctor treated the virus like it was NBD, and actually listened when I said “take heed before you enter my vagina — I’m a sexual assault survivor.” Because of that, I got the best relatively pain-free care I’d ever received in my life.

The second doctor, my current gyro, is just as awesome. Her office is full of professional staff who laugh off STIs and preach to get tested and treated and forget about it — it’s a total no-judgement zone.

2. You can date people who don’t care about your diagnosis. Since receiving the news, I’ve told all my partners about my diagnosis. Now, this isn’t recommended because everyone most likely has HPV and the spread of it is incredibly difficult to prevent, but I’m the kind of person who shares everything — obviously — and I didn’t feel right about not talking about my diagnosis. And no matter what the dude you’re dating says: Men can get HPV and transmit the virus. There’s just not a test that men can take to identify the virus. Tell your man to take charge of his health by going to the doctor and dentist regularly, and checking for any bumps, lesions, etc. on his genitals, mouth, etc.

3. Some forms of HPV are invisible, so, unless you have the kind that causes warts or lesions, you may not know you have it. I had the kind that was invisible, so, I never would have known I had it. This is why regular gyno visits are so important.

4. You can get over the virus. This November, I found out that I’m now HPV-free. Most healthy people can get rid of this pesky virus after a year or so. Now, there’s no guarantee the virus won’t come back — HPV is a dick like that — but if it does show its ugly face again, I can get treatment for it and subsequently kick this virus’ ass.

So, don’t sweat it if you do ever get an HPV infection — it really isn’t a big deal. Just make sure you go to your gyro on the regular, stay up-to-date on current HPV prevention guidelines — and get vaccinated if you can — and don’t fear this stupid virus that is, basically, the common cold of STIs.

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Image of a doctor via Shutterstock

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