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STDs Resulting from Affairs
Previous Question — and Peggy's Response

Question:
Did you ever comment about what happens when the spouse finds out she has a SDT that she got from her husband having affairs? I would like your input on this.

Peggy's Response:
First, a little background before proceeding with information about STDs...
I received this question from a woman I had known for awhile, and responded to it personally. She then wrote back with some excellent information of which I had been unaware—to which I responded that I would share our communication with all of you in order that more people can be better informed about STDs as they relate to extramarital affairs.

Here's a copy of the personal response I sent to the above question:
I just quickly re-checked (to confirm my thinking) that I have NOT directly addressed this issue. That doesn't mean it hasn't come up - because it happens more often than anyone might think, including sometimes being the way a woman finds out about her husband's affairs is when she discovers she has an STD.

Frankly, one of the reasons I've never tried to address STDs specifically is because (strange as it may seem) this has never been the specific focus for the people who have commented on it - because they're so overwhelmed by the totality of the life-altering ramifications of the affair that this is not the issue they ask about. (They seem to see this primarily as a physical issue to be addressed with their physician.)

However, to focus on it now... mainly, STDs have been seen by most women as simply "adding insult to injury." It fits under the overall question they have of: "How could he take the risk.... of getting caught... of hurting me.... of hurting the children.... of causing a divorce..., etc." (So STDs are just one more of the many things women wonder how he could have risked.)

As hard as it is to imagine, the fact is that men having affairs USUALLY simply "don't think" about any of these possible consequences. There is a focus ONLY on the positive feelings/experiences of the affair (excitement, novelty, ego-boost, etc.) while they block out, avoid, deny, or rationalize any possible consequences. In fact, in order to continue to think OK about themselves while continuing to have affairs, it's pretty essential that they block out any focus on the risks they're taking.

Certainly, this doesn't "justify" their failure to focus on the consequences; but it does help to simply understand men's ability to "compartmentalize" and avoid considering the potential for ANY consequences - including STDs.

I MAY post some of these comments at some point, but I usually try to avoid writing too much that is "gender-specific" and sounds like I'm "male-bashing." Since so MANY men come to my site for help and support in dealing with their wives' affairs, I'm sensitive to not turning them off. Frankly, men whose wives have had affairs hurt just like women whose husbands have had affairs—and the men have even fewer sources of help since so much of what's written is addressed specifically to wives.

Here's a copy of the excellent information she shared with me—
which I now want to share with all of you.

When I found out about my husband's affairs, I made him go for an HIV test, as well as going for one myself before I would continue to have a sexual relationship with him. I was reasonably certain that he had not contracted anything.

However, I just had a test for HPV, and it turned up positive for "high-risk" types. This puts an entirely new spin on our relationship. HPV has no cure, can be contracted even though the man wears condoms, and is directly linked to genital warts, cervical and oral cancer. I am devestated all over again and am trying very hard to stay on an even keel.

This test is not routinely done by a gynocologist. It is only done upon the patient receiving an abnormal PAP test result...or if the patient specifically requests it. I just think that both women and men should be aware of this particular STD, and how easy it is for it to be transmitted. The results of having it are, indeed, quite serious—more than just "adding insult to injury."

Regarding not turning men off, this is really not a gender issue. Women that have affairs can catch this virus even if they have "protected" sex, because the virus is found on the skin of the scrotum as well, and can attach itself to their genital area. They can then give this to their husbands. It works both ways. Unfortunately, I did not know about this issue or else I would not have waited to be tested for it until 3 years later. I am now breaking out with genital warts, which is what precipitated my email. I suppose had I known about it, and had found out right from the start, I can safely say I would not have tried to preserve my marriage. The feelings of betrayal coupled with the fact that I now run these health risks would have been cause to leave my marriage at that time.

I am surprised that so little is written about this subject. It seems that the HPV virus is the one most commonly transferred from one person to another...even if they are having "protected" sex. I don't know that knowing this information would stop a person from cheating on their spouse, but it would certainly benefit people if they knew about this. I don't think it would have helped my situation, because my husband was sleeping with me as well as his girlfriends, and so I could have gotten the virus at any point.

This virus can stay in your system for many years without causing any symptoms whatsoever. Vaginal warts, when tested with a DNA test (which I had) that show that they may be of the "high-risk type" can cause cervical cancer at a later date. This virus stays in the system of the infected person until something causes it to be symptomatic.

If a person tests positive for viral types from the groups HPV 16/18/31/33/39/45/51/52/56/58/68 they are at high risk for contracting cervical cancer. After I realized that I had genital warts (vaginal) I had my doctor perform a DNA test. This is done by taking a sample of tissue from the cervix. My test came back positive for high-risk type.

He also said that when I found out about my husband's infidelity, and had an HIV test, I should have been re-tested at "regular" intervals for at least a year and a half. He said that if a person is also infected with HIV, their immune system is compromised, and that could be a reason for the HPV to cause warts, and later on cervical cancer. I was never advised of this, and because I am menopausal, have been having unprotected sex for the last 3 years. As you know, HIV is spread by contact with bodily fluids, so I now have this worry as well until I can get tested again.

Now you have to understand that just because you have HVP, does not mean that you will definitely get cervical cancer. It depends on your "viral load," that is how much of the virus you actually carry. He was not aware of how one gets tested for that, but he said that women with high-risk HVP should have PAP tests at least twice a year to see if they get an abnormal reading—which would mean that they MAY have cervical cancer. The relationship of HVP to cervical cancer is this—most cases (over 97%) of cervical cancer have been found to be caused by HVP...not that all HVP causes cervical cancer. I hope you can understand the difference.

There is also something else. Although my husband had "protected sex" (i.e. used a condom for intercourse) he did have unprotected oral sex with this woman. According to what I have read, the lesions can also be transferred orally, and my gynocologist told me tonight that it can also be transferred manually. A wart is a wart. Some are more high-risk for cancer than others. There is information on some of the cancer websites that say that the incidence of oral cancer caused by genital warts has increased as well.

This has reached epidemic proportions. Most people consider it an annoyance if they have the "low-risk" type of warts. However, if you are exposed to high-risk HPV (which, incidentally, I was) it is much more than an inconvenience.

There is no cure for this. So even though a person may not be at risk for cervical cancer, the prospect of multiple genital warts is not pleasant.

Now, here's my "thank you" to the woman who posed this question—
including my commitment to post something about this issue.

I am so grateful for the specific information you shared about HPV. I was aware of HPV as one of the many STDs but did not have the kind of gender-neutral details you shared. I mistakenly assumed that most STD issues were about male-to-female transmission - partly because every person I have heard from who got an STD from their spouse's affair was a wife getting it from her husband. Thus my mindset that addressing STDs would be a gender-divisive issue to address.

However, now armed with your information—especially the "specifics" that when it comes to HPV..."the virus is found on the skin of the scrotum as well, and can attach itself to their genital area."

I agree completely when you said:
"I don't know that knowing this information would stop a person from cheating on their spouse, but it would certainly benefit people if they knew about this."

I'm pretty sure this information (as with all the other information about various potential consequences) will not "stop a person from having affairs." But it's worth addressing simply for the awareness of the spouse.

So thank you again for "helping me help others."

(end of personal correspondence)

A comment sent in by another visitor to the website offered the following comment:
"I'd like to point out the fact that getting one type of HPV does not prevent one from contracting other types that are carried by other sexual partners."

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