While more Nigerians are willing to talk about sexual health in recent days, it’s still a topic shrouded in secrecy and judgment. We still live in a world where people are scared of buying condoms, so it’s not obvious they’re “doing it”.

In a bid to throw more light on the importance of sexual health, six Nigerians talk about their experience with sexually transmitted diseases and how they managed it.

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“Condoms didn’t protect me from getting herpes” — Jane*, 27

I don’t think people talk enough about how STDs and STIs can be gotten even without penetrative sex. I religiously use condoms, but I noticed painful sores close to my vagina about a year ago. I did a couple of tests, and it turned out to be herpes. That’s when I learnt you can also get it by kissing an infected person or via oral sex. It’s incurable, but I manage it with medication to prevent an outbreak — which means a reappearance of symptoms like sores. 

“I didn’t even know I had one” — Dave*, 31

I use condoms with sexual partners but not in serious relationships. I also did an HIV test once in 2019, and it was negative, so I thought all was fine. It wasn’t until 2021, when I had to do medicals for travel, that I realised I had an STD. I didn’t even know I had one — there were no symptoms. Thankfully, it was treatable, so it’s long gone.

“I thought it was just a vaginal infection” — Lola*, 22

I’ve had at least three yeast infections since I was a teenager. So when I noticed some foul-smelling discharge two years ago, I thought it was just a simple infection. I tried to treat it with over-the-counter medication used to treat yeast, but it got worse and progressed to random bleeding. I didn’t want to visit a hospital near where I lived to prevent gossip, so I waited until I returned to school to do a test. It was an STD. I started treatment and informed my now-ex-boyfriend — we broke up because we kept accusing each other of infecting the other.

“I think it’ll come back” — Mike*, 29

I first tested positive for gonorrhoea in 2017 after I noticed severe pain in my genitals. The nurse said it was treatable, and I was prescribed a ton of medication. Even though the symptoms subsided, I still felt pain, so I took another test two months later out of curiousity. I still had gonorrhoea. I treated it again and finally stopped having symptoms, but a part of me still thinks it’ll come back. I haven’t tested for it again.

“I think I got it through a sex toy” — Rachel*, 20

I got an STD last year, and I think I got it through a sex toy. I have a roommate, and she has a couple of sex toys. One day, I was really horny, and I used one of hers without her knowledge. I cleaned it after, though.

A couple of weeks later, I started having pelvic pain and discharge, and Google told me it might be an STD. I got a home test kit, which confirmed my suspicion. I think it was the toy because I wasn’t sexually active at the time, and sources online confirm that STDs can be transmitted via sex toys, too. I treated it but didn’t tell my roommate. How would I say I used her sex toy?

“I’m not sure how I got it” — Jem*, 26

I found out I had an STD in 2021 when my partner insisted we got tested before becoming exclusive. It’s not treatable, and I’m not sure how I got it because I practice safe sex most of the time. I’m glad I know now because I now pay more attention to my health. I’m still with my partner, and we practice safe sex all the time.

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*Names have been changed for the sake of anonymity.

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