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Author Topic: Mystery STI Panic. Want answers...
she-thulhu
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Hello there. On Thursday, I went in to my university clinic because I was experiencing symptoms of a UTI. I did a urine sample and they did find evidence of blood in the urine, so they gave me antibiotics. My doctor also ordered a urinalysis, just in case.

Well, last night I got a message from him saying that the results were positive for a STI test and to contact him ASAP for treatment, which I have done. I don't know which one yet, and I know nothing else. The thing is, I have NO IDEA where this could have come from. This was my first STI test.

For one, I have never had condomless sex. Ever. Second, I have been sexually monogamous for the past year with my boyfriend. I called him last night in hysterical tears, and he assured me he did not fool around. We talked for a long time, and he was a little freaked out. Neither of us have cheated. Third, He had a blood test done a couple months ago for STIs, and it was negative, but I'm not sure what I have yet-- and if it's detectable in the blood.

Can you see why I'm freaked out? My heart has been racing and I just want my doctor to answer me back. I have only a couple minor suspicions to work off of- and they depend on diseases being dormant in the body (my boyfriend was cheated on three years ago by a girl for a long time before he knew what was up. Though, he has had no abnormal feeling in his genitals since.)

So...how could I possibly have gotten something? I hate that most people assume it MUST be cheating by one party or the other in order for this to happen. It's just not something that happened in my case. And besides, I have NEVER gone without a condom with a penis inside me. Are there such things as false positives? Could there have been a mix-up?

Please, does anyone know how this could be?

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Heather
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Hey there. First up, let's have a breath. I get being freaked out, but until you know more, and know what infection we're dealing with, I'd suggest trying to relax. Most infections are treatable, and the majority are treatable to the degree that once you take a simple treatment, they're 100% gone.

So, one thing to know is that while condoms can offer us a great deal of protection from STIs, that protection isn't 100%, just like no birth control method can provide 100% protection against pregnancy. Depending on the infection, specifically, condoms offer anything from around 70% protection on the low end (namely that's with herpes and HPV), and around or over 90% protection on the high end. But not 100%. So, while the risks of infections are reduced with condom use, they can still be acquired or transmitted, even with condoms.

And, of course, if barriers aren't being used for all kinds of sex -- like, used for intercourse, but not for oral or manual sex -- then the risks will be higher.

I can't know about your partner's testing, nor what all he was tested for. If he's a cisgender guy, he can't be tested for HPV, so that's always a wild card, but too, I don't know if what he got done was everything he could be tested for, or only some things. Do you know if he does?

Ultimately, how you could have picked up an infection was by engaging in the kinds of sex where that can happen, where a partner you have had, be it this partner or any previous partners either of you have has, had an infection.

Lastly, most of the time, with most STIs, for most people who acquire them, people are asymptomatic. In other words, no one will feel anything strange about their genitals, or even see anything strange. That's why regular testing once we become sexually active is so important, because more times than not, it's the only way someone finds out if and when they have an STI.

So, those are the facts: how can we help you out from here?

[ 07-13-2013, 01:46 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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she-thulhu
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Ok. Thank you. Well my doctor was telling me that he wanted me to drop in some time with my first morning urine for a chlamydia test, but he would run the urinalysis just in case in the meantime. So if I had to guess, I might have that, but I will not know for sure until he gets back to me.

I asked my boyfriend was he was tested for (yep, cis-guy) and he did not know. He only knew that they collected blood from him in order to test generally for STIs at the same time he was being tested for hemochromatosis. I was also vaccinated with Gardasil years ago.

And no, I guess oral and manual sex have been direct skin-on-skin. But I don't know how I could have gotten something like this unless he has had it all along, or if my last boyfriend from almost three years ago had something the two times I had sex with him, and he was a virgin before me. And that would require either me or my now-boyfriend having this disease for 1-3 years on either end without knowing about it.

I will suggest that he goes in for a urine test once I know what I supposedly have. I just don't know how the hell I am supposed to make sense of any of this.

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Heather
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So, it sounds like there are a lot of question marks. As well, if he also wasn't swabbed with his STI tests, he may not have actually gotten tests for Chlamydia or Gonorrhea, two of the most common tests.

Obviously, until we know which infection we're talking about here, though, we can only guess around this. I vote we wait until you have your rests, and then try and work back from there, if you like. But with three years of sexual activity and only testing now, and not being with the same person that whole time? We simply may not be able to figure out where any infection you have ultimately came from.

(Including because when people say "virgin," who the heck knows what they mean. For some people that means no kind of sex at all, for many it means no intercourse, but all the other kinds of sex, etc. So, that word about your ex doesn't actually tell me much of anything about his sexual history, because that word just doesn't have any literal, universal meaning.)

But if you haven't been tested at all before this, then yes, you could have had an infection for...well, as long as it's been since you became sexually active until now. Again, a lot of times, people have no idea they have infections until they get tested. But that's something your healthcare provider may be able to estimate for you when your tests come back.

Just for future reference, for both of you, when you go in to get tested for STIs, you want to ask for a full panel of tests. Or, if a doctor is suggesting tests, you want to ask what infections they're testing for so you can know which bases of yours are covered.

Given your tenure here as a user, you may also already have read this on the site, but in case you haven't, what's suggested per frequency of testing is usually getting tested around once a year once you become sexually active. For anyone switching partners more often than once a year, testing bi-annually -- or more frequently, depending -- may be advised. Just something to know moving forward.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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she-thulhu
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(Well when I meant virgin, he told me he had never had any kind of sexual contact with anyone before me. Just to clear that up. I have only had sexual contact with him and the guy I'm with now. No one else.)

I am starting to think it's more plausible that my now-boyfriend was carrying something from a previous relationship. I will contact you again once I know the in-depth results of what my doctor looked for. Would that be ok?

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Heather
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Of course. And do hang in there.

I know that there's a bunch of stigma around STIs, and that can make them feel way scarier and icky than other kinds of illness.

But honestly, infectious disease is infectious disease. There's nothing any morally or ethically better or worse about one kind of infection -- or someone with one -- versus another, and all infectious diseases are really just part and parcel of being human beings who interact with one another and have contact. We can reduce our risks of them, to various degrees, depending on what we do or don't do, as well as what kind of contact we do or don't have, and that makes a big difference. But sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes we also don't do all we could have to prevent illness, and it happens.

But once it's happened, whatever choices we made or circumstances we were in that led to an infection, all we can really do is take care of ourselves as best we can, including whatever treatment we need and can access, and then check our choices moving forward, including protecting ourselves better in the future if we didn't do all we could to do that in the past.

That isn't to say it doesn't suck to get sick, with anything. Of course it does. Nor is that to deny that some people are ignorant or shitty about STIs and people with them. But the fact that some people are that way doesn't make what they think true or sound, you know?

So, I'd suggest doing what you can to try and let go of that stuff, do some extra self-care for yourself this week just because it sounds like you are sick with something, and also pretty emotionally taxed, so that care is going to help all around.

And when you know more, we can absolutely talk more from there if you'd like.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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she-thulhu
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Thank you so much. I was so upset last night, and I still am now. I felt, and do feel, dirty. Shameful. And I know I shouldn't, and I know it's wrong for me to say that, but I'm just at my wit's end. It sucks that the clinic is closed over the weekend, because I'm going to be a ball of nerves until Monday.

Again, thank you for helping me. Once I have the information, I will definitely update this. Thanks so much for providing this service to people like me. You're doing a hell of a lot of good.

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Heather
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I totally understand. I say anything you know you can do for yourself when you're stressed and scared that makes you feel better? Do all those things. [Smile]

And you're welcome. Glad to be able to give you that support.

There is one advice answer I'm thinking of that might help with some of those feelings you're having, too: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/i_feel_dirty_and_irresponsible_because_of_genital_herpes

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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she-thulhu
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Well, the doctor called this morning. It's gonorrhea. I'm relieved that it's easily treatable, but I'm still angry that I cannot determine where I got it. My appointment is in a few hours.
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Robin Lee
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I'm glad to hear you have an answer now. Yes, this is easily treated. Yes, it's understandable that you would feel angry and even helpless that you don't know how you contracted this.


If you need some help figuring out how to have this conversation with your boyfriend, we certainly can talk about that.

Best of luck at the appointment!

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Robin

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she-thulhu
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I told him of the positive results on Friday, but I just sent him a message this morning about the actual diagnosis. He has been there for me this weekend and been able to comfort me through this. I just don't know how I could have a STI if both of us have been loyal to each other and always used condoms for the 11 months we have been together.

I just hope he doesn't think I've been unfaithful. I highly,. highly doubt he has been, either. We have a D/s element to our relationship and I have him collared. I don't want him to think I've been seeing someone else, because I haven't. He's been cheated on before by other girls, and I don't want that stigma coming from me. [Frown]

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Heather
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Again, if you haven't been tested until now, and he only has recently, and both of you have been sexual together and had other sexual partners? There really are many ways this could have happened. And, like I said, not only do condoms not, unfortunately, offer 100% protection, if they aren't used for all kinds of sex, then...well, they can't have offered any STI protection from those kinds.

Ultimately, he'll get screened again, and you both might know more. But what an STI isn't is some truth somehow different from your own.

In other words, if you both have had a monogamy agreement you honored, one or both of you having an STI right now doesn't change that. If that's both your truth, but one of you doubts that, then that's just something to talk and work through.

But, given all the possible variables here, I'd say anyone leaping to that as the only possibility wouldn't be remotely sound. Again, though, that's mostly just something to talk through together.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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she-thulhu
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I got my medication. One shot and some antibiotic pills. He just started having burning symptoms a few hours ago, but has had testicular pain on and off for about a year. I talked this through with him in-depth tonight and we have mutually agreed that there must have been some kind of anomaly in our case. Being asymptomatic for a long time due to other partners in the past couple years seems to be the most plausible. Neither of us violated our agreement of monogamy. He is going in for treatment tomorrow.

I spoke with my doctor and he disregarded my feelings. He basically suggested that either I or my boyfriend was not being truthful. I couldn't believe it. I live with my boyfriend and we trust each other immensely.

I keep seeing everywhere that it's "extremely rare" for people to have this infection and not know about it for a year, but that seems to be the only conclusion. I've had what I believed to be "utis" over the past year and they came back, and I never had an STI test. Bad move on my part.

I feel uncomfortable not actually getting to the root of this, but it's probably best that we just get our treatment and give it a rest. I have had no reason so far in the relationship to suspect infidelity, and for all I know, even I could be the culprit due to my last relationship. I just don't know, and I don't think worrying about it any further is going to help me.

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Heather
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I'm so sorry -- and also irritated, on your behalf -- that your healthcare provider was like that. [Frown]

Really, I think you'll need to accept you're just not likely to get some kind of definitive answer here about the where, how and when of this infection. It sounds like you and your boyfriend have worked it out between you, and personally, I think that's mostly what matters right now.

I'd basically, at this point, just have him do his new round of testing, have both of you get on a schedule of getting tested regularly, and get back to safer sex, full-stop, for the next six months before you ditch barriers for any activities where STIs can be transmitted until you have a next round where you're both all clear.

I agree with you: other than steps moving forward, I don't think dwelling around this is going to serve you well.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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she-thulhu
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NEW UPDATE:

So, my guy's test results came back yesterday. He was negative. This makes me feel awful and it troubles the both of us, although we both want to work past it. It had to have come from my only other relationship, which was two years ago. I have reason to suspect that the other guy cheated on me, but I'm just absolutely floored that this even happened the way it did. I had zero symptoms. I'm starting to suspect that they might have even switched samples on me in the lab, because I simply cannot fathom what else could have taken place. I can't believe I had this living in me for actual YEARS. It's mind-boggling.

I re-tested yesterday to see if I'm all clear. But I'm still worried. My boyfriend says he trusts me and believes me, but I can't help but want to cry because I feel like I failed him in some way.

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Heather
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I really think you need to remember that with most STIs, most of the time, for most people, there are NOT noticeable symptoms. I know it can be hard to accept that, since there's so much mythology out there to the contrary, but truly, that's the reality. Again, that's why getting regularly tested once we become sexually active is so important: it's often the only way most people, most of the time, will know if and when they have an STI.

I don't see how any of this is about failing your boyfriend. Do you want to talk about that? If so, can you perhaps fill me in on how and why you feel you have failed him?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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she-thulhu
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I just feel like it's too far-fetched for me to have gonorrhea for two years. I talked to that doctor about it and he said it is extremely rare for something like that to happen (this was right before he insinuated that one of us was cheating.) But I have no other explanation. I have never had sexual contact with anyone but these two guys. I don't go to parties, drink, or do recreational drugs, so it is not possible I was under the influence of anything and taken advantage of, either. I'm thinking of anything that could have happened, and I'm coming up blank except for my last boyfriend.

I explained this to my current boyfriend and he does trust me and did not want to end the relationship, but I feel a load of guilt weighing me down over something I did little to control years ago. He told me he needs a day or so to mentally process this, but he has been supportive of me. Despite his wonderful demeanor, I feel like he thinks I'm sleeping around on him and taking advantage of his niceness. I would never, ever want to hurt him. I have been entirely faithful. I just feel rotten over this entire debacle. I'm afraid he secretly mistrusts me, despite what he has been doing for me. [Frown]

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Heather
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You know, the thing about "rare" is that it's different from "never." Sometimes, things will happen to us that are unlikely or rare.

Given you weren't tested until now, and it doesn't sound like you were practicing safer sex with all activities AND given condoms don't provide 100% protection, I really don't see any reason to do anything other that just accept this reality. I also don't see any reason for anyone to doubt what your truth is here, especially you, who knows what your behaviors have and haven't been, without a doubt, okay?

I hear you saying you're second-guessing what your boyfriend has told you about what he himself thinks and feels. Why do you think that is?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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she-thulhu
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I'm second-guessing him because I have some anxiety issues. I assume the worst when anything even remotely negative comes up, and I entertain conclusions that -usually- don't end up happening. But regardless of me knowing my tendency to overthink, I do it all the time.

I'm just afraid that since this really rewarding relationship has had basically no bumps in the road until now, things might start heading south. My last relationship wasn't very strong on both ends (it was one-sided toward the end with me doing most of the upkeep), and so now I'm worried that it'll carry over into this one even though it's two TOTALLY different guys. I'm just a worrier. :/

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Heather
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Well, over time, EVERY relationship is going to have its conflicts or bumps in the road. That's really unavoidable, and managing those and getting through them together is part of being in a long-term relationship. If conflicts meant all long-term relationships then went south, ALL of them would, and fairly early in, too, since often, some kind of conflict will happen in every relationship before too much time passes.

Maybe you can talk about this with whomever treats you for/helps you with your anxiety? As well, maybe you can work a little bit on getting that it's possible for you -- not this STI -- to make a mess here by not putting stock in your partner's expressed feelings, and second-guessing him? In other words, it may be that the best thing you can do to assure this relationship keeps going as well as it has been is to ditch your own ideas of how someone else feels, especially when they're not actually coming from that other person, but from things you're assigning to them, you know?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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she-thulhu
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I don't have a therapist or someone I talk to about it outside my friends because it doesn't come up a lot, and doesn't control my life (and simply telling another person helps a ton, really.)

I know that if I keep thinking like this, I might sabotage things. I just needed to get this out of my system, and so far, some of the best advice I've gotten in the past two weeks has come from you.

I've just never had to deal with this before, and it sent me reeling. But I have the privilege of being with a very understanding and caring guy through all this. I guess it's just a matter of me accepting his word as fact, and moving forward with him. I know good, long-term relationships take work and cooperation, and I am willing to try and make this happen with him by my side.

Thank you for putting me more at ease.

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Heather
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Work, cooperation and trust, which I think is important in this particular moment. It sounds to me like some of what you need to do here -- for yourself, but also this relationship -- is have faith in what he has told you and do your best to trust that, rather than projecting your own feelings about yourself here unto him.

And I know that's not easy in the midst of something like this: it's scary to have this happen, and also scary to have a first big issue in a relationship. We can often feel like we're just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And sometimes, it does. Other times, it doesn't. other times still, the shoe that drops has nothing to do with what we thought it would.

But it sounds to me like, so far, there's really no reason not to trust here, and take a leap of faith.

Also, if you find your anxiety does become a bigger issue for you -- since you brought it up, I have to assume it's likely not minor -- it might be time to explore getting some counseling and help around that. You could certainly likely also use some extra support in general right now, anyway.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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