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I Got HPV When I Lost My Virginity

Before my boyfriend and I actually became a couple, we were hooking up on and off for about a year and a half. He had told me multiple times that he wasn’t hooking up with anyone else and that there was only one other person with whom he had been with since his ex.

I waited until we were in a relationship to actually have sex with him because I was a virgin and didn’t want to rush anything. He told me he was always safe, but when I went to get my annual check-up, they found pre-cancerous cells from HPV.

When I told him about it, I found out that he had also had a relationship with a guy and the other girl was more involved than he had told me. Since finding out, I have been stressed out over the fact that he had slept with other people when he told me he wasn’t, and it bothers me that one of these two people (along with my boyfriend) are the reason I will have HPV for the rest of my life.

I love my boyfriend, but I haven’t been able to get any of this out of my head for the past three months, and I’m starting to question whether staying with him is good for me mentally or not. How do I move past this?

Your boyfriend lied about his sexual history and that’s not, in any way, cool. I’ll take on the trust issues that undoubtedly raises in a second. But first, let’s talk a bit about HPV because it’s very, very common.

You can find plenty of authoritative info at the Centre for Disease Control, but I’ll just point out a few things: HPV is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact, usually through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It’s the most common sexually transmitted infections, with 79 million Americans currently infected by one of the more than 150 viruses we call HPV.

According to the CDC, ‘Nearly all sexually active people will get human papillomavirus (HPV) at some time in their life.’ Most of the 14 million people newly infected each year don’t even know it. (This is why the HPV vaccine makes so much sense.) A pap test is often how women discover HPV, but there is no currently approved test for HPV in men. In the vast majority of male cases, men experience no symptoms at all. (For all this info and much more, visit the CDC’s explainer site.) I just want to spell this out because your boyfriend likely had no idea that he was carrying HPV.

Does that in any way excuse the fact that he lied to you about his sexual history? Of course not. But I just want to be clear that HPV is both extremely common among all sexually active adults and particularly invisible to guys. In other words, I know you’re angry and upset over contracting HPV, but you knew your boyfriend had another sexual partner, and even if he had been tested for STIs, his HPV wouldn’t have shown up since there is no reliable test.

The bigger issue here is that you made a decision about sex with this man partly based on a lie about his sexual history. Now let’s talk about the lie: he told you he’d been with both his ex and one other woman since her, but he did not tell you about other encounters. That’s not cool, but it’s not particularly connected to your HPV. The fact that he has a sexual history with several more partners is not a huge difference, particularly when HPV is so common. (Oral sex partners count too.)

You don’t mention whether or not you and your boyfriend were having safe sex, but, if you weren’t, that would be a much more significant factor. HPV aside, your boyfriend basically lied to you about his number. Most people round their ‘number’ down — and I can see why your boyfriend might have been skittish about admitting a gay relationship early on, particularly if the two of you had not discussed his bisexuality. He might have been worried it would scare you off. Still, he lied. If that’s simply a deal breaker for you, walk away. But if you love him and think you can forgive him, keep talking. Tell him that he hurt you, that you’d wish he’d told the truth, and that you won’t tolerate lies going forward. Tell him he’s going to need to earn your trust all over again. Rebuilding trust is a slow, gradual process, but people do it all the time.

This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com

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