Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
By Kendall McKenzie
I got my first pap smear less than a week ago, and I got a call yesterday that I tested positive for chlamydia. I have no idea who I got it from, being as I’ve had multiple partners without using condoms. I feel like an awful, irresponsible person. How do I stop feeling like this? I got my prescription for antibiotics yesterday, and took it. Does this mean I don’t have it anymore today? I just don’t know who to talk to that won’t judge me right now.
Big internet hugs to you. Finding out you have an STD (and/or that you may have passed it to other people) can feel pretty traumatic, but if it makes you feel any better, millions and millions of people have been through this. STDs are VERY common, and more than 50% of us will get at least one over the course of our lives.
Many people don’t have any symptoms when they have an STD, so it’s normal to not know you had it. And, whoever gave it to you might not have known they had it either. Also, you kinda lucked out because chlamydia is curable — meaning once you’ve finished all of your medication the infection goes away, just like other things you take antibiotics for, like strep throat. Go easy on yourself: You made some mistakes, but you’re not a bad person. And, snaps to you for getting tested and taking your medication, which is a really responsible thing to do.
So, let’s talk damage control. First things first: Make sure you take ALL of your medication, and don’t have sex — even with condoms — until you finish the antibiotics (that's right; no sex at all). Doing things like encouraging past partners to get tested, learning more about safer sex, and promising yourself you’ll always use protection from here on out may help you feel more in control right now. And, go get some condoms, like, today! It sounds like you already realized that not using condoms definitely increased your risk of getting (and giving) STDs, so being responsible in the future by always having safer sex, continuing to get tested, and communicating honestly with partners will make it less likely you’ll have to deal with any of this stuff in the future.
It’s also really important that you contact the people you’ve had sex with and let them know that they should get tested for chlamydia pronto. Dreading the thought of spreading this news? Here’s a website that can help you do it anonymously.
You learned a pretty unfortunate, yet very common lesson: Sex without a condom not only puts you at risk for STDs — some of which are life-threatening — but it puts your partners at risk too. We owe it to ourselves and our sexual partners to be sexually responsible.
I know you’re feeling terrible now, but that will go away (and so will the chlamydia). Learning from your mistakes, always practicing safer sex, and encouraging everyone you know to do the same is the best way to turn this negative into a positive. Keep your chin up.
-Kendall at Planned Parenthood