So, I have been writing these style of blogs for Sex with Alexa to share a personal experience of my growth with my sex life in hopes that readers can relate and not feel alone. This blog’s topic is STIs and how I dealt with my first and only, alone.
I can count with my hand the number of people I have honestly admitted to having had an STI in my past. My doctor being one of them. The other few, I have only recently told, five years after having and curing it. Why is that?
Because of the comments and jokes associated with STIs, all creating a negative connotation with them. It’s laughed about on the playground with friends from an early age, ‘ewww he has cooties’, then carried with us into our adult years. The media makes a mockery of many STIs, most predominantly, herpes. An extremely common infection where the stigma around the virus is often much worse than the symptoms themselves. However, this stigma causes a lot of carriers to seek professional help with dealing with it because of the insecurities and anxiety it creates.
My first time having an STI, I was twenty-one years old and living in the USA, without access to a car, without my family and very little understanding at that point of how the healthcare system in the USA works.
(TW) I don’t remember what happened with the person I am sure gave it to me, but what followed after that night, I can only assume a condom wasn’t used. Though, I am aware there is still a possibility you can contract STIs even when using condoms.
At first, my symptoms were; itching around my vulva, at times it burnt to pee, a white discharge, and there was a potent aroma almost permanently going on. During the first days of the symptoms, I was fortunate enough to have a friend that said he really needed to get his sexual health check done but hadn’t been motivated to do so. So, I jumped at the chance, telling him I needed to go as well and we could go together. For this and for him, I am very grateful.
So off we went, in his little car, to the clinic in downtown Orlando together. It was free, even for an immigrant, thank goodness! After filling in paperwork, we went into separate private rooms for all the required tests; a vaginal swab, blood drawn, and pee in a cup.
Within two weeks, our results had come back and my friend let me know he was all clear and good to go. Ready to continue pursuing the person he was currently interested in. I, however, was positive for Chlamydia.
My first thought, what the fuck does this mean? Obviously they had taught us all about it at school, told us how to prevent it and that Chlamydia was ‘one of the curable’ ones. I also knew, thanks to Mean Girls, that ‘you will get Chlamydia, and die.’ Greeaaat.
Here I was, clueless. How many follow up appointments were there? What steps were required to tackle this problem? What about telling the people I had slept with before, isn’t there an anonymous service to inform them to get tested?I called the clinic and was told I needed to make an appointment to come in for antibiotics to treat the infection, but the antibiotics were not free.
Now I had to cover the costs of transport to the clinic again as there was no way I was telling my friend I had contracted something and ‘could you please drive me back?’ And I had to cover the costs for the treatment! I was super embarrassed, super scared.Yes, I realise now I had no need to be. Who could I talk to for support? I couldn’t believe I had contracted an STI, I was always careful. I was too nervous people would look at me like I was ‘dirty’, or I would be the punchline of jokes at parties later on. So I kept it to myself.
I booked the appointment before work, I scheduled an UBER to pick me up and I headed back to the free clinic. Only to find the place was closed. I waited, I called, I knocked, and nothing. So I paid for the UBER back to my apartment when they then called me to tell me the follow up appointment was at another location they forgot to send me the address for, and they will do it now.
After another UBER paid for back to the correct location, I waited in line for the individuals and couples ahead of me to get the treatment they had come for. All of us avoiding eye contact with one another. At my turn, they prescribed my antibiotics, told me how to take them, and then charged me the corresponding price, at that time it was $42.
I had to take the antibiotics twice a day, for seven days straight and let me tell you, it was not pretty. That medicine really cleaned out your system. Imagine, in the middle of serving a customer their baked goods and you have to excuse yourself to run to the toilet because the antibiotics you took before your shift had kicked in. I know it can have different side effects for everyone. I was too young and naive to explain what was happening to any of my coworkers or friends either. I remember being in the bathroom for a good fifteen minutes because the antibiotics were doing its thing. Not only was I too embarrassed to tell people I was on antibiotics, antibiotics for Chlamydia, but I also had to try and hide the uncomfortableness I felt with too many lengthy bathroom visits. It was not a fun week for the shy and timid younger me.
The financial strain those four UBERS and the antibiotics had put on me also created an uncomfortable situation for myself, having to refuse social events because I couldn’t afford it and not being able to explain to my friends why that was the case. Two months later, I returned home to Australia and went for a general check up at the doctor’s office. There, they told me again that I was positive for Chlamydia. I explained my situation and they said there was a chance the first dose of antibiotics didn’t completely work and I needed to do another round. By this time, I felt more at ease. I knew the process, I was in my home country and had access to a car for transport.
From my experience, and with a lot of time, I have learnt that you are not ‘dirty’ if you have had an STI. That you it’s OK to talk about it, to ask for help for treating it. And if anyone, anyone has anything negative to say about, any jokes to make about it then they are not worth listening to. Because you are not alone.