Boy, am I glad that I woke up at 6am to try and get my free express home STI test kit off iCaSH! What a surprise it was to be diagnosed with chlamydia, but what a common thing it is to get, too – a young adult is diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection every four minutes in the UK, and, of all STI diagnoses, 49% are chlamydia.

At this rate, you’re weird if you haven’t had it. I was also one of the up to 70% of women who show no symptoms: no burning when I peed, no weird discharge, no pelvic pain. I was just living my life; now, I look at pictures of myself in my camera roll and think “damn, I really was walking around with an STI for so many months and never knew.”

I know exactly how I got chlamydia – I had unprotected sex at a horrible party with someone who I was not in an exclusive, monogamous relationship with. That’s generally how it happens, although I did, for a bit, hold on to hope that I had gotten it from my cat, who had feline chlamydial conjunctivitis earlier in the year; that maybe I had petted him and not washed my hands and then petted myself, or something.

Turns out that no, that is not how it works at all. I didn’t use a condom, and it was the only time that I had done that, but yeah, I got chlamydia. It only takes one instance of exposure, so always use protection. Don’t be silly, protect your willy. Wrap it before you tap it. Use a dental dam, ma’am.

As students in Cambridge, we are extraordinarily lucky to have access to free STI screening kits, free treatment, and free support. I try to be proactive about my sexual health, and I am usually very good at it. I got an intra-uterine device (IUD) fitted as soon as I knew what one was; I can go on long lectures about safe sex; I did my STI test as soon as I got back to Cambridge, mainly because in the area where I live, these things are much less accessible.

If you have it, or have had it, you are most certainly not alone

While cuts to the NHS have led to a limit in the amount of test kits sent out per day (this is why I needed to get up at 6am to try and order one), the kits are still there for free. The antibiotics I was prescribed were given to me for free. The employees at the clinic let me have a bit of a cry about it and were nothing but friendly and understanding for free. They gave me a big bag of condoms. For free. How incredible is that!

It’s extremely important to break the stigma around STIs. Having one doesn’t make you dirty or unclean. It’s normal, and it happens, and it’s all manageable. In my case, I’m on a strict regimen of one week of medication and no sex, which is basically what it was like when I had glandular fever, so it’s all the same in the end.

What’s the difference between chlamydia and, say, freshers’ flu? It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but I mean it. The level of embarrassment and shame should be the same. If anything, chlamydia didn’t make me hack my lungs out in lectures.


Mountain View

We need to do more to accommodate non-drinkers at Cambridge events

In my efforts to normalize conversations about sexual health, I’ve told most of my friends, my sister, my parents – even, in a moment of terribly awkward and deeply hilarious behaviour, an ex-boyfriend – about my diagnosis. I’m very open about it. The only reason I’m anonymous is because I have a very uncommon name, and I would hate for a potential employer to Google me, find this article, and see that I’m a bad writer. Out of all the people I’ve told, not a single one has been anything but supportive and loving. Some of my friends have had it, too.

So if you have it, or have had it, you are most certainly not alone. You’d probably be surprised by the amount of people you know who have had it, and by the support you get. I mainly wrote about chlamydia here, but if you find out that you have any STI, you don’t need to worry (so long as you get it treated, because they can lead to more complicated conditions).

Pretty much all STIs are treatable, even HIV. If, like me, you did the iCaSH test and have an STI, then you will get a phone call informing you about your positive result and the very nice person on the phone will quickly get you an appointment to sort it out. When it comes to telling previous sexual partners about their risk, the clinic will do it for you, completely anonymously, saving you a difficult conversation.

Honestly, the hardest part about an STI diagnosis is cycling all the way down Mill Road – it’s so far! – to Lime Tree Clinic. So get tested regularly, talk about it, and help break the stigma.