Last year, I had an irregular pap smear. The year before, I was preemptively treated for chlamydia just in case the test came back positive. Every so often, I get UTIs. Sexual health is something no one wants to talk about but makes everyone freak out.
I’ve never told people those things — I’ve been embarrassed about them, especially the first one. But the other night, I was talking with one of my sorority sisters (okay, yeah, we may have graduated, but it’s not four years, it’s for life, right?) and, after a few glasses of moscato, she told me about her irregular test result. Immediately, I felt myself relax as I could come clean with my secret. We talked, we drank, and we learned what was going on with our bodies in a judgment free zone.
As we chatting and dug through the internet we learned that a lot of this isn’t the huge, life-ending deal we’ve been taught in school. 80% of women will have some type of HPV in their lifetimes. You know, the stuff that shows up in irregular Pap smears. Condoms don’t protect against all strains and men can’t be tested for it. Most of the time our healthy bodies can fight it off and it’ll disappear on its own in a year or so. That’s why we’re now being told to get paps less often. Treating it too soon is more trouble than its worth. Also, most of the STIs we would pick up in college can be treated with a round of pills. Very few college kids are getting brain destroying syphilis or HIV.
I’m saying we shouldn’t be careful. Get tested regularly, use protection, and be smart about your sexual endeavors. But we need to end the hate and stigmatization around sexual health. We wouldn’t shun someone if they needed some penicillin for strep throat or had to get that weird wart on their foot checked out. As sorority sisters, we want our friends to go out, have fun, and get laid (if that’s what they want to do). So why should we feel like the world will end if something comes back wrong?
We should be doing the exact opposite. We should encourage sisters, friends, and partners to get tested so if something is wrong, they can get treated before it gets worse.
Venting feels good and helps people learn more about the situation. After months of freaking out, calming down, and learning what was going on, I can finally relax. I know that my uterus isn’t going to fall out, and I probably won’t have any severe aftermath. There’s also probably nothing I could’ve done to prevent this from happening. More likely than not, the person I got it from doesn’t even know they have it, which is an even bigger problem. If things like this weren’t swept under the rug, there would be a freer and more open discussion that really could help prevent these problems. I’m not saying that everyone needs to shout their sexual health to the heavens, but maybe we could just stop the hate. Because statistically, some of you talking shit are the same people dealing with it..
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