Greg, a 33-year-old computer programmer living in Manchester, was relatively happy with his life. He had his own home, and a long-term girlfriend who he planned to have children with in the next couple years. He had been faithful to her, and was convinced that she was the love of his life. But one day, he found a scab at the end of his penis.
Naturally, he assumed it was the result of rough unprotected sex with his girlfriend a few nights before. He must’ve poked her IUD, and failed to notice in the heat of the moment.
A few days later, he fell ill. He went to see his doctor, and they prescribed a round of antibiotics to treat the common cold. A couple of weeks later, he still wasn’t feeling too well. He returned to his doctor for a blood test, and when the results came back, Greg found out he had syphilis.
He was mortified and confused. What would his girlfriend think? Had he given it to her? Maybe he contracted it from his brother’s dirty toilet?
It didn’t cross his mind until later that evening that his girlfriend could’ve been unfaithful to him. The doctor told him that there was an epidemic going around. And he decided to confront his girlfriend about it. She initially lied to him, deflecting all of his questions about the diagnosis and refusing to be tested. She said he sounded “crazy.” So Greg decided that the two needed some space and moved out of their apartment…
A couple weeks later he got a text from his girlfriend saying that she was “sorry” and that she “tested positive for syphilis” also. While Greg was receiving treatment, he felt embarrassed and alone. He had to visit the doctor everyday for 2 weeks for antibiotic injections in his buttocks, and it was very painful and time-consuming. Refusing to talk to family or friends about the diagnosis, he turned to his now ex-girlfriend who was also receiving treatment. The two discussed why she cheated on him, and she said it only happened once when she was really drunk at a friend’s bachelorette party.
The relationship never recovered but Greg was able to come to terms with his diagnosis. He realized how easy it it to contract syphilis, and heard that it was “more contagious than HIV.” He began wearing condoms, whether having sex with a casual partner or in a relationship. He added that the whole thing has shaken his trust in human beings. It was a very frightening, stressful, painful, and depressing experience.