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La Verdad Desnuda
Syphilis
My Name is Amber.

I’m seventeen, and I have this STD called syphilis. I know what you’re thinking—I’m just some stupid teenage girl who had stupid unprotected sex. That’s not how it is, really. About 2 months ago, I had sex for the first time. It was with Sean, my boyfriend, someone who I had known for a long time, and someone who I trusted. Before it happened, we talked about everything. We were ready and knew that we’d be together for a lot more time to come. I was on the pill, but Sean and I even talked about the chances of pregnancy. What we didn’t discuss though, was the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

I knew Sean had dated other girls in the past. He told me he’d had sex before, and I was okay with that. I didn’t notice anything on his body that was unusual or that looked suspicious, so I wasn’t worried. Turns out I should have been, because a few days later, I had a couple of small, hard sores. They didn’t hurt, but when they didn’t go away, I wondered if they came from having sex. I knew that you could get diseases that way, but I thought it was really uncommon and only people who were really irresponsible about sex got them.

I knew I had to ask Sean if he had an STD, but it made me really nervous. What if he already knew he had one, and didn’t tell me on purpose? Maybe he didn’t know, and finding out would make him angry - would he blame me for it? Even worse, what if I tested positive and he didn’t have one at all- would he ever come near me again? But I knew I had to tell him, so he would go to the doctor- otherwise I could get syphilis again! Eventually, I got up the courage to ask Sean if he’d ever had anything like what I did, and what he told me was really scary. He got the sores too after he’d been with his last girlfriend, but then he also had strange dark red rashes on his hands and got fevers all the time. He didn’t think it came from the girl, because she told him she had only been with guys who promised they had been tested. After a while, the rashes and sores faded away, so he thought he was alright.

After we talked about it, we both got tested. The worst part was asking my parents to make the doctor’s appointment. I didn’t want them to know I’d had sex, and I was scared about what they would say. Luckily, they realized that what was important was getting me to see a doctor. Sean and I both tested positive for syphilis, which didn’t come as a surprise. It can be cured pretty quickly with a shot of penicillin, so I feel really lucky. The doctors say that if Sean had never realized he had the STD that he may have ended up crippled or with mental illness. Sean told his ex-girlfriend about what happened, and she tested positive for syphilis too. Lucky she found out she had it, because if she ever had children, untreated syphilis can cause babies to be born deformed – but mostly they die before birth.

Sean and I are still together, at least until we go off to college. Now we both know that you have to pay attention to symptoms, because they can get worse and cause serious damage. I know that when I get a new boyfriend in college I’ll have to ask him if he’s ever had rashes or symptoms, and I’ll have to tell him I had syphilis, and hope he trusts me when I say that I’ve been treated for it. I know what to look out for now, and how to stay safe and healthy. Even though it was really scary to have the disease, I’m glad I realized how serious things like that can be.

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