By Andrea Arscott, Columnist
Forget treading water with this topic, let’s just dive in. You’re in the shower rubbing yourself down with pomegranate body wash, when you discover a few little lumps on your penis. You panic, dry yourself off, and hustle to the mirror to get a closer look at your man parts. Yup, something’s up down there, and it’s not your penis. You hope whatever it is will go away, and you leave it for two weeks. Guess what? The bumps spread. You jump on your bike and pedal as fast as you can to the nearest medical clinic to save the rest of your genitalia.
The doctor takes one look and blurts, “Genital warts.” He walks to the door and says, “Wait right there, and we’ll freeze them off.” Your eyes pop out of your head, and you want to shout, “Pardon?” but the door slams in front of you. The doctor comes back with a steaming paper cup of nitrogen oxide and a long cotton swab. He reads terror on your face and provides some comfort, “It’s nothing to worry about—it’s very common. This will just burn for a second.”
So, you got a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Yes, it sucks because there’s no cure for genital warts, which means you have to either wait until they go away on their own, or get them treated whenever you experience an outbreak. But is it really the end of the world? It just means you have to use condoms, which you should be doing anyway, and avoid sexual contact during an outbreak.
You should also tell your partners. This part can be uncomfortable because, unfortunately, there are people out there who will turn you away as soon as they find out, but they’re doing you a favour because you don’t want to be with someone like that anyway. If you have an STI, you simply have to take extra precautions, and if your honey bunny or your sweet pea really cares about you, they will stick around. You shouldn’t feel ashamed, nor should you be embarrassed. And insist on wearing condoms. If they say “no,” just say, “Okay, do you want to watch TV or go for a walk then?” See what your horny love monkey says to that.
Remember that by wearing a condom, you’re also protecting yourself from HIV. If you have an STI, you’re more susceptible to getting HIV because sores and cuts make it easier for HIV to enter the body, and your immune system is already weakened by the STI.
Genital warts are spread by skin-to-skin contact, so if you’ve got warts on your testicles, a condom is not going to do any good—unless you can squeeze your entire scrotum into the condom (please do not try this at home). These warts can grow on the outside or inside of the vagina, the penis, the rectum, and believe it or not, the throat (through oral sex); however, the BC Centre for Disease Control’s (BCCDC) website states that this is rare. Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), but not all types of HPV cause warts, and some types cause cancer in women.
The good news: you can ask your doctor about the HPV vaccine, which according to the BCCDC, prevents 70 per cent of genital cancers and 90 per cent of genital warts. If you have multiple sex partners, you might want to get the vaccine sooner rather than later to protect yourself from being exposed to the virus. Some teens may get the vaccine in high school before becoming sexually active to reduce the chances of contracting the virus.
Stop HIV, STIs, and hep C now. Wear a condom and get tested for everything.
Come down to the Purpose Society testing clinic at 40 Begbie Street in New West on the first and third Friday of the month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for anonymous and rapid HIV, STI, and HCV testing. We also provide vaccines, free harm reduction supplies, and condoms! You can also get your questions answered by emailing email@example.com