“I’m a 22 year old woman in regional Australia. At 20 years old, I was diagnosed with HPV in my cervix, as well as abnormal pre-cancerous cells.
At times, I felt wholly betrayed by my body. I was fully vaccinated against the virus, I had never had casual unprotected sex, I had always gotten my sexual health checks — I did everything ‘right’. After the diagnosis, I felt dirty, unhealthy. I would say ‘it’s like I’m rotting from the inside.’ I felt alone and ashamed, guilty that I had ‘done’ this to myself. I wanted it gone.
I still feel this way occasionally. It can be hard not to be affected by the stigma, to not feel wrong.
But I consider myself lucky.
Lucky to know that I have this virus that I have. Lucky to have found out sooner rather than later. Lucky to be able to look after my body (considering around 80% of people have HPV, but almost none know they do).
But most of all, lucky that I’m also a medical laboratory scientist.
I’ve turned my self-loathing into a fiery determination to make positive changes. I’m in graduate school, looking into developing better ways of detecting HPV. I’m unapologetically upfront about STIs, speaking about them factually, honestly and with an aim to educate. I’m driven and I’m not about to stop. I love my body for being strong, resilient and powerful. I accept the reality for what it is. I accept myself as I am.“