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I HAVE AN STD!

Now that I got your attention with that title I would like to assure you that you don’t have to rub your eyes and try reading it again. Yes, you read it correctly the first time. I do indeed have a sexually transmitted disease. While I realize that this is something most people prefer not to come out and announce openly to the entire world, in this case I feel it is my responsibility to do exactly that.

Regrettably, I must admit that there was a period of my life where I was not very responsible and did not always make the best choices in many areas of my life. Yet somehow I managed to make it out of those “wild” years relatively unscathed and disease free. It wasn’t until after I met my husband and settled myself down that I acquired a sexually transmitted disease. No, I did NOT get it from my husband. No, I did not cheat on my husband and pick it up from another man. I unknowingly acquired this particular STD from a bug no bigger than the size of a poppy seed. A tick.

There has been great debate as whether or not to officially classify Lyme disease as a sexually transmitted disease – the CDC currently says no, but in my heart of hearts I truly believe that it is.  I have seen way too many people who suffer from this debilitating disease witness their spouses suddenly begin to display symptoms and then further down the road test positive for Borrelia Burgdorferi. It makes perfect logical sense since the only other spirochete (corkscrew shaped bacteria) is syphilis. If the syphilis spirochete is transmitted sexually, then why wouldn’t the Lyme spirochete be capable of transmission in the exact same way?

I spend much of my time reading all the latest research surrounding  my illness and there is a recent study suggesting that tiny deer tick bites may not be the only risk factor when it comes to Lyme disease transmission—the disease may definitely be sexually transmitted.

One international team of researchers divided participants into three groups: a control group that did not have Lyme disease, a random group of men and women who did have it, and a group of married, heterosexual couples who had Lyme disease and engaged in unprotected sex. They then tested vaginal secretions and semen samples. What they found was that the control group did not have the bacteria in their vaginal secretions or semen, but all of the women who had Lyme disease had the bacteria present in their vaginal secretions, and about half of the men showed the bacteria in their semen. The researchers believe the bacteria that cause Lyme could be transmitted that way.  The researchers said an interesting finding is that one of the married couples had identical strains of the bacteria, suggesting one had transmitted it sexually to the other.

Sexual transmission would mean that a person who contracted Lyme from a tick could give it to his/her partner. It could also mean that now that the disease is so prevalent in humans, it is being spread from one person to another without any ticks involved. As Marianne Middelveen, one of the lead scientists on this research, said in a press release, “It explains why the disease is more common than one would think if only ticks were involved in transmission.” She added, “Our findings will change the way Lyme disease is viewed by doctors and patients.”

Another one of the researchers conducting this particular study, Raphael Stricker, put it right out there: “There is always some risk of getting Lyme disease from a tick bite in the woods. But there may be a bigger risk of getting Lyme disease in the bedroom.”

We all know condoms work well to prevent sexually transmitted diseases that are transmitted through the exchange of fluids, including vaginal secretions and semen. If it does turn out that Lyme disease is classified as an STD, which I personally believe it will, then condoms will be the best protection for sexually active individuals.

Unfortunately, this is one more thing that angers me about my Lyme disease. This horrid, insidious disease has already taken so very much from me, and now it has robbed me of yet another precious thing. The ability to have a completely carefree sex life with my husband!

It may sound selfish, but I am extremely angry and find it completely unfair that a person in my situation should now have to start worrying about using “protection.”  Here I am, very happily married and in a completely monogamous relationship with a man I am crazy in love with.  We both came into this relationship 23 years ago completely disease free. I had tubal ligation many years ago and am of that age where I no longer have to worry about an unplanned pregnancy. Our children are grown and we have more time to enjoy and explore each other in all areas of our marriage – including sex. Yet at a point in our lives where any possible fears surrounding our marital sexual intimacy should be completely gone – there emerges one far greater than any we had previously known. Lyme disease! Random spontaneity is no longer an option.  My husband and I must be prepared whenever the mood should strike. And if for some reason we aren’t – we have to mindfully practice restraint. It shouldn’t have to be that way between us and it totally breaks my heart.

There was one particular time where my husband and I did get caught up in the moment and did not practice the restraint we should have.  Instead of feeling content, happy and resting in the afterglow of a beautiful experience, I laid in bed after and sobbed uncontrollably as he showered. How could we have been so irresponsible? What if I just infected my husband with this horrific debilitating disease? How in the world would I ever forgive myself if I got my husband sick? Who would take care of us if both of us were severely sick and symptomatic at the same time? Father God, please, please, please don’t let my husband get sick!

Yes, I believe I have an STD and I am scared to death of passing it on to my wonderful husband. Lyme disease has managed to steal so very much of my life and caused so much emotional stress already – and apparently all of this still wasn’t enough. Lyme had to mess with my life even more. But at least the studies are now starting to confirm what my first Lyme literate doctor had already suggested to my husband and I back in 2006. And as much as I hate the idea of using “protection” at this point in my life, I will absolutely take the responsibility going forward and do whatever it takes to prevent my husband from having to experience the pain and suffering of this wretched disease.


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