I am a 25-year-old male. Three years ago I contracted genital warts from hooking up with a woman without a condom. (Stupid, I know — 20/20 hindsight, right?) I’m getting treatment, but I haven’t had sex since and I have never been more miserable. I have a female friend I’ve known for a long time. I love her more than anything and I want to be with her. Everyone says, “Tell her how you feel.” I am a good-looking, nice guy with a cool job, so it should be easy, right? Except for the part where I’m like, “Oh yeah, I have a nasty STI, but will you still be with me?” I feel like it’s unfair of me to ask her to be my girlfriend, as it means she would risk contracting HPV. What do I do?
Hindsight might be 20/20, but it’s time for you to look forward. The social stigma that comes with having an STI can be extremely isolating, but you’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that some 20 million Americans have HPV, and another 6 million become newly infected each year. You happen to have a strain of HPV that causes genital warts, and while it sucks, it’s not a prescription for celibacy.
It’s noble that you don’t want to put your love interest at risk for HPV, but it’s also patronizing. She should be able to make that decision for herself. If her feelings for you are mutual, who are you to decide what’s best for her?
It’s time to let down your guard and tell her how you feel. If she wants to be with you, you’ll need to change your tune about HPV — the situation is not as bleak as it seems. Have you heard of Gardasil? This vaccine, approved for use in men and women ages 9 to 26, protects against some genital warts. Plus, the CDC says that using condoms may lower the risk of HPV. Once you disclose your STI, offer to visit a doctor with her so that you are both on the same page about safety and prevention.
It’s a bummer that, at the moment, your sex life is fraught with difficult conversations and doctor visits, but it doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of love and desire. Remember, if she’s worth your time, she won’t let an STI get in the way of a relationship with you.