"My HPV Story" - Kiki, 22

When I first found out that there was something going on down there, it was because my boyfriend of 4 years said to me that he had some spots around his penis that he wanted to get looked at and he was wondering whether I also had them. I then started looking around and inside my vagina with the camera of my phone (flashlight on, also made pictures to further examine it) and discovered that my vaginal opening was full of warts. It scared me, because I hadn't really been thinking about STIs, considering I was in a long term relationship.

We both went to the doctor. He got a cream, but I got a referral to the gynaecologist, since the warts were mostly inside and not so much on the surface (so the doctor wasn't sure whether a cream would do me any good). At the gynaecologist I first got a cream with imoquimod to put on the edges of my vaginal opening. However, the gyno also gave me the option to have the warts surgically removed by burning them away. The other option would have been to just wait and see what the cream does and even if that wouldn't have worked, genital warts go away naturally within 2 years. But I really wanted to get rid of the warts as soon as possible, because stupid enough they made me feel super gross, which is probably because of the stigma around it.

Therefore, I decided I wanted to do the surgery. I did continue to use the imoquimod cream until the surgery. I was under full narcosis for the surgery. Afterwards, the surgeon told me that there were barely any warts left inside and the surgery wouldn't have been necessary.

My sex life suffered from it quite a bit. When we first found out we agreed not to have sex until we were both "clean" again, but we couldn't really resist. Also, we both don't like condoms (I was on birth control), so we would just have unprotected sex, which was pretty dumb because we could infect each other over and over and I think this is also what caused the warts to spread to my anus. Also, after the surgery it would hurt to have sex the first couple of times and I wasn't good at saying no, so I would feel terrible for not being able to have sex. Obviously, this was stupid, because sex has to be pleasurable for both of us.

The surgery didn't really have much of an effect. There were still some small warts left on the outside and, as the surgeon said, the inside was already almost cleared up.

Now it has been over a year since I first found out and I still have a couple of small warts in my anus and around my vulva. My boyfriend never had any new warts after the first time. I did try to get rid of the ones around my vulva with cream again, but that didn't work. I also had some around my anus burned away by the doctor (general practitioner, but I don't know if that is the correct word for it?), but there are still a few left.

It doesn't really bother me that much anymore, but I haven't told many friends about it. I do talk about it openly with my boyfriend and parents, which is nice. Also, many people will think someone may have cheated since HPV is a SEXUALLY transmittable infection, but you can contract HPV by many more means than just sexual acts (using the same wet towel for instance). Many people carry it without being aware, and you can contract it but only start showing symptoms after a couple of years. It is one of the most common STIs and most people never have any complications.

I would really like people to know that it is not something to be afraid of or to see as gross. It is natural and nothing to be ashamed of.

I also have another type of HPV (there are a lot of types), which is the one that can cause cervical cancer. It is not yet dangerous (no bad cells or something, I'm not sure how that works?), but I do have to get a swap every year to check whether or not it is still there and whether it has changed.

I'm grateful for the lessons I've learned and I really hope that schools will adjust the way they teach about STIs, because I would have benefitted a lot from proper education on this topic

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