My life in sex: the woman with HPV

I have HPV – the human papillomavirus. Infections are common, but the strains I have mean that I’ve had to visit a specialist seven times in the last two months. I’m now at risk of cervical cancer, so have had to undergo a smear test, colonoscopy and multiple biopsies – all of which were very uncomfortable. I have genital warts, which are painful, and which didn’t respond to a topical solution or being burnt off with acid. Eventually I had to have them frozen with liquid nitrogen.

The pain is almost gone now, but I will have to be examined twice a year, which will no doubt bring the emotions flooding back.

The whole thing has been very embarrassing. I’ve felt judged – even by the doctors and nurses who’ve treated me – and too ashamed to tell friends. I don’t feel sexual or sexy; I feel ugly – and stupid for never having heard about HPV before this.

If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. I’ve only ever had sex with three men, and been married for almost two decades. When my doctor explained to me that HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, I initiated a conversation with my husband, and he confessed to having cheated. We’re now getting divorced.

After researching HPV, I’ve discovered that there are no tests or treatments for men, despite them being the carriers, and only girls are offered routine vaccinations. In an era of casual encounters, why is there still no way to fully protect ourselves? Right now, life feels very unfair.

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