Alt.sex.column: A pox

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By Andrea Nemerson. View more Alt.sex.columns here.

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Dear Andrea:

I went for a test and the nurse found a genital wart. I have had more than 20 sexual partners and enjoy casual sex occasionally, but I always use condoms (plus the pill, just in case). I feel embarrassed, like I've been irresponsible, but I thought I was protecting myself thoroughly. How can I get over this and feel OK about sex again? And are there ways to keep from getting another wart?

Love,

Dirtied

Dear Andrea:

I just found out I have a genital wart. It's a really small bump that could have been there awhile without me noticing. I've had it treated with freezing and have cream to apply to it; but I've been doing research and I keep getting conflicting information about how long it will last, whether any kind of sex is safe while it's still there, how infectious it is, and what to do if it doesn't go away.

I feel gross and dirty about it. I always use condoms and I don't know where I could have gotten it. To make matters worse, I have a new boyfriend who doesn't seem to have noticed anything wrong. Now that I've found out about this, I am dreading telling him. Help!

Love,

Sullied

Dear Andrea:

I found out I have HPV and I don't even know how I ...

Dear Warty Readers:

OK! We have found some warts. Until someone claims to have acquired them on purpose, or to have been accidentally exposed but really stoked about it, I will assume that everyone is feeling kind of miserable and a little soiled and having a hard time coming to terms with it. This is completely understandable. Indeed, it is expected. Having an infectious disease which may affect your ability to find happiness with other human beings would certainly be harsh enough; the whole STD thing adds insult to injury.

Personally, I think STDs need an image makeover. Syphilis never seemed to shock anyone in Elizabethan literature, but everyone was poxy then anyway, not to mention smelly. We've had centuries of crass jokes and shame campaigns since, though: a kind of cumulative shaming which no public health department's "it could happen to anyone" message is going to be able to alleviate. Of course you feel bad.

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