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8 lessons I learned when I was diagnosed with an STI

May. 29, 2018
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A month ago, I started to feel a burning sensation when urinating. My discharge had become greenish instead of the normal white/yellow, and my menstruation for the month never arrived.

A few weeks ago, I was diagnosed with gonorrhea and trichomoniasis. Contracting these infections tried to challenge my self-worth and self-love, from the time I suspected I had an infection to the time I received a diagnosis. Although this experience was scary at first, it presented me an indestructible strength and taught me few lessons:

1. Most STI/STD's are easily cured.

Although herpes and HIV have no cure, most STI/STDs (Sexually Transmitted Infections/Diseases) such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and syphilis can easily be treated with antibiotics. My gonorrhea was gone after only a week of taking Doxycycline. 

2. The term is ridiculously stigmatized.

Every time I would hear the term STD, it seemed like a myth to me. With almost zero knowledge about it and drive to look it up, I had just let the bad connotation sit in the back of my head.

From a distance, it seemed instantly fatal, as if immediate death comes your way once you're diagnosed. When I got diagnosed, I realized how ridiculously stigmatized the term STD is. Why did these diseases and infections seem so cripplingly terrifying when they generally are not that deathly?

Perhaps it's because the stigma is tied to its popular source: premarital sex, which is still considered a sin in conservative/religious countries like the Philippines. Sex is also what most people think STI/STDs always come from, which isn't necessarily the case. You can also get an STI from blood transfusion, contaminated food, razors, and even tanning beds. 

3. Contracting an STI is fairly common and can affect anyone. 

According to the CDC, there are an annual estimated 19.7 million STI cases in the United States alone and an estimated 498 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis worldwide.

Almost all sexually active men and women will contract an STI at some point in their lifetime. Even people who never indulge in sex can experience them.

4. STI/STDs do not mean death!

Curable ones go away just like a cold or cough with the right medicine. Even incurable ones can be treated to manage symptoms and decrease the chance of transmission. It's not the end of the world!

5. You can have an STI and go about your normal life.

My knees went weak when the nurse told me I was STI-positive. When I went home, I stumbled upon a thread online in which people casually talked about having STI/STDs and what kind of medicines worked for them. In that moment, my perspective shifted. I realized I'd been looking at STDs through the eyes of other people rather than seeing them as they truly are.

You can still go outside, eat with your friends, and stick to your usual routine. Acquiring an infection can be bothersome, but it doesn't have to reduce your quality of life. You're still allowed to be happy. Having an STI or STD doesn't cancel out the good things in your life.

6. Pap smears and tests are important.

Truth be told, I didn't know what a pap smear was until I had undergone one. Pap smears and tests are a cervical-screening method used to detect infection, inflammation, and cancer.

The nurse inserted a cotton swab to get a discharge sample from my vagina and then put the sample on a glass slide for the laboratory examination. It only took seconds, and it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be.

7. Listen to your gut feeling.

When I met the guy from Tinder, I refused to have sex without a condom. I just had this feeling that something would highly go wrong if I didn't. 

Halfway through, my impulsivity won and I decided to remove the condom due to dissatisfaction.

After I got tested a few weeks later, I realized how a fast slip and a simple nod can put your health at risk; since then, I've made a strict rule to never prioritize pleasure over my health. 

Ultimately, there's no point in beating yourself up for having an STD or STI. Understanding and acceptance are the only things you can really offer yourself besides medical treatment in this type of situation.

8. Getting tested is a form of self-love.

Some STIs are asymptomatic, so even when you don't feel anything weird, it's always better to know your health status. Luckily enough, my body showed symptoms, which clearly signaled that something needed to be taken care of.

Honestly, I had never felt more self-love than when I bought the antibiotics and vaginal suppository in the pharmacy. There was something so empowering about it. In that moment, I knew I was there for myself.