Should I tell, or not?
October 27, 2004 3:49 PM   Subscribe

I was recently diagnosed with HPV. The strain I have does not cause genital warts (thank god) but does cause cervical abnormalities that could lead to cancer. I've done my research on this, and I've learned that HPV is extremely prevalent and shouldn't be stigmatized, but it is nonetheless. Here's my question: I know my ex gave it to me, and I know he doesn't know he's a carrier (because he got tested for STDs and came back clean before we did it). I think he's a jerk and I don't really want to talk to him, but am I obligated to tell him so he can tell all the other girls he's infected? I'm afraid he'll tell all of our mutual friends that I have an STD. Help.
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (31 answers total)
 
Is there anyway you could send him an anonymous e-mail or letter? I think you should tell him, at least for the sake of the other women he's been with, but if you're worried about him being a gossip queen, there are lots of anonymous e-mail services out that don't disclose personal and/or IP information.
posted by Zosia Blue at 3:59 PM on October 27, 2004


I think he's a jerk and I don't really want to talk to him, but am I obligated to tell him so he can tell all the other girls he's infected?

Yes.

Not because you want him to know, but because you don't think innocent people should be getting infected.

If you want to keep it short but sweet, go ahead. But for the love of God, don't let him unknowingly infect others.

If you're worried about him telling the world, don't put your name on the letter. Maybe just write:

"Hi. I think you might have HPV. You should go get tested again to check if you are a carrier. Sorry."

And nothing else.
posted by shepd at 4:00 PM on October 27, 2004


It is extremely prevalent, it shouldn't be stigmatized. I have it, and it has had approximately no effect whatsoever on my life--it's been ten years or so, and I've had not one single problem, including through two pregnancies. I don't feel remotely ashamed of it, it's nothing to me.

I'm assuming you know your ex gave it to you because he's the only person you've ever slept with. Whether or not that's the case, you should tell him because it's the right thing to do. If he tells your mutual friends and it gets back to you, your response should be something along the lines of "So? Pretty much everybody has HPV."

Because honestly, it seems like EVERYONE I know has it. I think the actual stat I've heard is 20-40%.
posted by padraigin at 4:02 PM on October 27, 2004


I'd like to add a another voice in favor of the anonymous note/letter/email. He should know, even if he's a jerk. I would modify shepd's suggestions slightly, so that it just says:

"Hi. I think you have HPV. You should get tested."

...the extra words in there remove some of the anonymity you seem to want, so I'd take 'em out.

Note, however, that if he's *more* than just a jerk, and has actually crossed the line into fucker, then he might not tell anyone else even if he does get tested. I don't know what to do about that.
posted by aramaic at 4:08 PM on October 27, 2004


try this. http://www.inspot.org/. anonymous 'you have and std!' email postcards.

great for getting in touch with old friends as well.
posted by th3ph17 at 4:12 PM on October 27, 2004


>I'm afraid he'll tell all of our mutual friends that I have an STD

You do. Are you saying you want to tell your ex off, but still want to remain free to give it to some other unsuspecting dude?

I hope not, if fact I believe that is a felony. You know you have an STD. Your life just changed. Get used to it.

>I think he's a jerk and I don't really want to talk to him, but am I obligated to tell him so he can tell all the other girls he's infected?

YES! Wow. How is this even a question?

Yes, HPV is common, probably because of people who hold attitudes like yours.
posted by skallas at 4:12 PM on October 27, 2004


My post is harsh, but you have an STD. Its time to stop being petty and tell people. You can probably save some woman from getting cancer by putting your personal issues aside.
posted by skallas at 4:19 PM on October 27, 2004


I was wondering how long it would take before an anonymous question on this subject popped up. I, too, got HPV from my ex. (We were together for 8 years, I was faithful, he wasn't, after I left I went and got tested for *everything* and discovered I had it.) I told him, and he denied any responsibility, alleging that I must have gotten in from my college-era boyfriend. (yeah, right. )

It felt like a huge deal at first. I did a fair amount of reading up on it, and learned that roughly 1/3 of people seem to be naturally immune to HPV, and also that if you've had sex with more than 3 people, odds are you've been exposed. It shouldn't have any more stigma than a yeast infection or a cold sore. I highly recommend reading up on it in Christiane Northrup's book, Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom.

And yes, do tell him. At a minimum, he can no longer say that he hasn't been told. You can't guarantee he won't be a jerk in the future, but you've kept to the high ground.

One more thing- please do get those pap smears regularly. I know, they are no fun, but cervical cancer is one cancer that can be prevented by diligent follow-up.

And if your mutual friends think differently of you because he gave you HPV, then that's another issue.
posted by ambrosia at 4:28 PM on October 27, 2004


Because honestly, it seems like EVERYONE I know has it. I think the actual stat I've heard is 20-40%.

Its the great, unreported disease. My friend, who is a doctor, says that among sexually active women she would guess its about 80%! So, dont be stigmatized, anonymous.

You do. Are you saying you want to tell your ex off, but still want to remain free to give it to some other unsuspecting dude?

I hope not, if fact I believe that is a felony.


lay off. I think she just means she wants to tell the appropriate person at the appropriate time.
posted by vacapinta at 4:34 PM on October 27, 2004


I think you are ethically obliged. Your potential shame does not outweigh preventing others from being infected.

Also, you say you worry that he will tell your mutual friends that you have an STD. A) if he's that much of a jerk, they likely won't believe him and B) he'd then be implicated in giving it to you; therefore his best bet is to keep quiet.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:38 PM on October 27, 2004


One more thing: every friend that I confided in about this, replied with "oh, yeah, I got that in college."

You've got a lot of company on this, anonymous.
posted by ambrosia at 4:47 PM on October 27, 2004


think about it for a sec... you're asking a bunch of people you don't know whether you should do something that will only help a bunch of people out there that you don't know. What do you think we're going to say?

Good luck resolving this situation. It's always seemed that stigma is the #1 symptom. But with millions of carriers out there, many of them asymptomatic, no cure, and no way to completely protect onesself, I don't see why there should be any stigma at all. It's just a stroke of bad luck to contract it.
posted by scarabic at 5:03 PM on October 27, 2004


Oh yeah, I got that in college.

I've also heard the 80% figure. I think you are obligated, but using the anonymous notifier service is the right way to do so.
posted by mwhybark at 5:15 PM on October 27, 2004


skallas, it's HPV, not HIV, so it's not a felony. It's a common, nearly harmless condition; and your comment

Yes, HPV is common, probably because of people who hold attitudes like yours.

just shows how ignorant you are. You can catch HPV even IF you use a condom, y'know. Moreover, anonymous and her ex were tested beforehand and thought they were in the clear. Seriously, quit being so sanctimonious.

Chances are, anonymous, that if you are asymptomatic, so is your ex. The reason why it didn't turn up on his tests is because they don't generally test people for HPV unless they're showing symptoms. There's only one test that shows if you have the virus in your bloodstream--Hybrid Capture II--and it's rarely performed because it's costly and not covered by a lot of insurance plans.

To echo the general consensus: Yeah. A helluva lot of people have it. It's not a big deal. Email him anonymously. He probably won't tell your mutual friends--besides, if he does, I guarantee that quite a few of them will reply "Oh yeah, I got that in college."
posted by cowboy_sally at 5:30 PM on October 27, 2004


>it's HPV, not HIV

Doesn't matter. Many states have full discolsure laws regarding all STDs.

>just shows how ignorant you are.

Oh, piss off. This chick is letting "my ex is a jerk!" get in the way of actually telling him she got an STD from him.
posted by skallas at 6:08 PM on October 27, 2004


Actually, there are no states with "full-disclosure laws" about informing a partner of STD infection. There are a few that will charge you with a misdemeanor or an infraction--but not a felony-- if you know you're infected with an STD and willingly engage in unprotected sex, but most don't.

And the fact that I called you ignorant doesn't have anything to do with anonymous' question--you implied that she was just the type of amoral person who would go around wantonly spreading STDs. You don't know that. So quit it.
posted by cowboy_sally at 7:03 PM on October 27, 2004


In some places, your local STD clinic or public health STD surveillance unit can make the call. They do partner tracing and just say that someone who named you as a sexual partner has an STD, so it's likely that you've been exposed as well and we recommend you come in for testing.
posted by jasper411 at 7:57 PM on October 27, 2004 [1 favorite]


>>Yes, HPV is common, probably because of people who hold attitudes like yours.

Skallas, I hate to take your flamebait, but what the hell was that? You offered completely unsolicited and egregious blaming, clearly without the motivation to help her, but to denigrate her. She didn't ask to be reprimanded, she asked for a solution to her moral dilemma. Jesus Christ did you ever rub her nose in it. Talk about stigmatizing someone, indeed.

For you less judgmental readers: regarding someone who only goes to the doctor when they are sick or suffering, how would they know if they had the HPV?
posted by naxosaxur at 8:34 PM on October 27, 2004


For you less judgmental readers: regarding someone who only goes to the doctor when they are sick or suffering, how would they know if they had the HPV?


One would be unlikely to find out, unless one broke out in warts, which some strains of HPV cause.

Women are luckier, because HPV often manifests in cellular abnormalities on the cervix which are detected during routine pap smears.
posted by padraigin at 8:51 PM on October 27, 2004


You wouldnt naxosaxur. And as cowboy_sally points out, a condom will not offer protection. This is why its so common.

The good news is that its fairly harmless as STDs go. The biggest danger is increased risk of cervical cancer in women.

Its a good idea to get checked after even a "protected" encounter with a new person. And women should be getting regular pap smears anyways.

skallas: Your life just changed. Get used to it.

Thats not really true. I could have written the same thing padraigin did above. Yeah, I got that in college.
posted by vacapinta at 8:56 PM on October 27, 2004


There are many different strains of HPV and some are much more likely to cause cancer than others. A new DNA test is available (or soon will be - I'm not sure of its status ) to determine which strain you have. Ask your doctor. Also, vaccines to one or more of the strains are being tested (or have been tested - again, I'm not current with this) and have shown great promise so help is on the way.

And yeah, tell him. jasper411's suggestion to have a local clinic do the notifying is a good one.
posted by TimeFactor at 9:51 PM on October 27, 2004


Amazing...I have just been rereading Patton's SEX AND GERMS and Bad Object Choices' HOW DO I LOOK?.

Last week I Amazoned Crimp's AIDS DEMO GRAPHICS.

I don't get you folks doing this jerkwater case about compromised health for people who compromise their health with unsafe sex.

I honestly don't understand your position.

I am amazed that an adult would proffer this query, aknowledging that she is having unprotected sex, exalting in it, as it were (why else would she even put forth the query?), and disgusted that the community members would even entertain this question.
posted by red cell at 1:36 AM on October 28, 2004


Sometimes people don't ask questions because they're "exalting." Sometimes they ask questions because they're frightened.

Anonymous: Yes, I'm afraid you do have to find some way of letting the guy know, upsetting as it is. The suggestions here for less painful methods are good ones, and I hope one of them works out for you.
posted by JanetLand at 3:32 AM on October 28, 2004


Anonymous, do it anonymously. At least you know you did the right thing then. Otherwise, it really won't affect your life. Get your pap smears regularly. Yeah, college. Everyone I know has this. That's right, skallas, we're slutty. But you're still a jerk.
posted by mimi at 5:26 AM on October 28, 2004


I am amazed that an adult would proffer this query, aknowledging that she is having unprotected sex, exalting in it, as it were (why else would she even put forth the query?), and disgusted that the community members would even entertain this question.

WTF? Did you even read the thread? It has been pointed out several times that condoms offer little protection against HPV. This is because the virus is spread via skin-to-skin contact. You therefore have no way of knowing whether anonymous and her ex -- who, again, were both tested for STDs beforehand -- used protection, so it's probably prudent not to go about pretending that you do. Regardless, even people who make sexual choices different from your ideal deserve compassionate (i.e., non-"you're a disgusting moron") answers to their questions. I will never understand some people's apparent need to sweep into AskMe with the sole purpose of making the asker feel like shit.

Oh, and "exalting?" Yeah, right. According to your logic, Metafilter is simply swarming with people who EXALT in their issues with crotch odor and excess body hair.
posted by purplemonkie at 6:18 AM on October 28, 2004


I meant red cell, not skallas. Ignorant and slutty, tsk tsk.
posted by mimi at 6:25 AM on October 28, 2004


If you're not the type to call someone you don't talk to anymore and tell them that they gave you the cold, I don't see the point of telling someone they gave you HPV, aka the common cold of STDs.

And methinks that red cell has some issues of his own...
posted by eas98 at 6:51 AM on October 28, 2004


eas98 - because HPV has significantly more potential long-term consequences than the common cold.

anonymous, please do the right thing and let your ex know. He needs to know for his sake as well as for his partners'.

There is a lot of stigma attached to STD's, but unfortunately you're going to have to learn to live with it - and hopefully be one of the people who helps to change that. My doctor's estimate was that 50-80% of sexually active women have it. Just get it treated, be honest with your future partner(s), and it shouldn't have much effect on your life at all. It didn't on mine.
posted by widdershins at 9:58 AM on October 28, 2004


If your in an area where the local health office doesn't make the kinds of calls jasper411 recommended it's unlikely your ex knows this. Do a little wetware hacking: Have a non mutual friend call him and give him the same speil. If you want to make it really believable pre record the message and call him up at dinner time and play it.
posted by Mitheral at 12:33 PM on October 28, 2004


I know he doesn't know he's a carrier (because he got tested for STDs and came back clean before we did it).

no tests exist to determine whether men have it.

So how do you know he has it?
posted by thomcatspike at 2:42 PM on November 2, 2004




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