Q. I contracted genital warts about a year ago. I got treated and am in the clear. I recently started dating a man I met through the internet. He’s suggested that we both get tested, before starting a sexual relationship. I am worried, if he finds out about my STI, he will want to make a quick exit. What do you think?
A. Act honestly — it’s the only way. When you found out you had genital warts (human papilloma virus), no doubt you were very upset. You don’t say whether you were with one person, or if you were having casual sexual relationships. It doesn’t really matter now. The point is you were left with a virus and were treated.
Being in the clear doesn’t mean it is gone forever. You could have another flare-up. Hopefully, it won’t happen, but it would be unfair not to tell a new partner with whom you plan to be sexual. It is important to be transparent about your past sexual health.
When you first knew, you were fearful, but you got help and treatment and didn’t deny the seriousness. Then, you had to adjust and you felt angry with your body and with yourself. This is a grief reaction. It makes sense, because there is a loss of sexual innocence and your approach to your sexuality changed as a result. You had to face a new reality. You are probably still struggling with this.
You seem to be interested in this new man, and would like the relationship to go further. This means it is getting more intimate.
Now is the right time to tell him. Don’t wait to go to a clinic for him to find out. That will surely kill the relationship. I know it will be difficult. Anything to do with STIs (sexually transmitted infections) is not easy, particularly trying to tell a new, potential partner.
If you had some other disease, people would have sympathy for you. But some people will judge when things go wrong sexually. So, when you try to explain to a new partner, you will experience shame and guilt. You know it is you criticising yourself. You are, no doubt, sorry it happened, but you are not a bad person because of an STI.
I think it is interesting that he is suggesting the tests. There may have been some incident in his past. Did he contact something himself? Did somebody not tell him the truth before?
Life after an STI does continue, and this includes sex. You will have to focus on what steps you need to take together. Talk about safe sex and using condoms, and be sure not to take any risks. Keep the atmosphere warm and affectionate between you.
It might be best, when you have got through telling him, to talk to healthcare professional about how to manage. Empower yourself with knowledge by reading up on the subject online.
Finally, if he runs then the relationship was probably not going to last anyway. Honesty is the best way for any meaningful relationship to grow.