"If the warts were somewhere else, they wouldn't have implied I was gay."
At 22, Josh (not his real name) was diagnosed with anal warts caused by HPV
, the same virus responsible for genital warts. He had just come out of the closet about being gay and was feeling relieved. Then he realized he had contracted a sexually transmitted disease (STD)from his very first boyfriend.
"The symptoms showed up about three months after we broke up," he remembers. "I looked in the mirror and I saw all these bumps. It wasn't painful, but I felt betrayed by my ex-boyfriend."
Josh also felt shame: "I knew that the virus was an STD that you couldn't get rid of. And I felt dirty, like I was being punished for being gay.... I thought maybe it would be a scarlet letter for the rest of my life. As it turned out, my ex-boyfriend didn't even know he had the virus." Warts are hard to get rid of
"The first person I went to was a GP, and he burned them off using liquid nitrogen. I almost enjoyed the pain because I knew we were doing something," says Josh. But the warts came back, and there were more that were internal. The GP referred Josh to a dermatologist, who in turn referred him to a genital wart specialist at a nearby university hospital.
"She said the only way to do this is to hit them and hit them hardand warned me that it's a really painful surgery but hopefully we'll get it all. I was put under anesthesia; they went in with lasers and they shot them out. Each time the laser was shot, it was like a third-degree burn. It was really painful. I had to wear bandages for six months after. It made going to the bathroom very painful for a few weeks. And it was really important for the first few months to eat massive amounts of fiber. It was crazy but definitely worth it. It's a horrible process to go through and a horrible process to heal from."