Ex-husband’s dishonesty about former relationships led to my HPV diagnosis

Emirati woman tells her story and why she thinks pap smears should be mandatory.

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I am an Emirati woman from a conservative background who married an expatriate.

My husband was from a secular background and was quite boastful about his past female conquests. But my now former husband was dishonest about his past relationships and the extent of his promiscuity. He insisted that he had always practised safe sex, because he was scared of contracting any­thing or impregnating any of his past girlfriends.

I believed him, but I also felt I was not in a position to judge him, despite my religious conservatism.

Not long after we were married, I fell pregnant. My husband decided he was not ready to be a father. He wanted a young and beautiful wife to show off, not one who would trail a child behind her, and he left us.

After my son was born, my gynaecologist insisted that I have a pap smear done, which is standard procedure, but I wanted to know why it was necessary. The doctor said: “Given your ex-husband’s background, I have reason to suspect that you may have contracted HPV, which is the most common STD today.”

I told my gynaecologist that I was averse to having such intrusive tests done but, to my dismay, it turned out I did have it. I had HPV type 51, which is categorised as moderate risk.

A year after, my next pap smear was due. I was disheartened to learn that the results were a cause for concern, and that I would need to undergo further tests. These revealed that the cells in my cervix had changed, and could potentially become cancerous if not treated. I had to undergo a procedure where the cells were scraped off.

It took an emotional and mental toll on me, not to mention the physical discomfort I experienced afterwards. I was not only angry at my ex-husband for having carelessly passed on a potentially life-threatening virus without having the decency to be honest about his past, but I was equally angry at not being educated about such STDs.

Had I known through proper sex education, which should be incorporated in our school curricula, that something like HPV existed, I would probably have asked my ex-husband to be tested for it before agreeing to marry him.

I do remember, quite comically, how when we had gone to collect our medical tests prior to getting married, the doctor told my husband to be: “Your fiancee is a thalassaemia carrier. Is that OK with you?”

It is comical, in retrospect, because thalassaemia is not something one can pass on to another and, as long as the other spouse is not a carrier, a child’s risk of becoming thalassaemic is low. Why did they think this was important knowledge to pass on to the man I was to marry, but no one thought of passing on knowledge that could potentially be life-threatening to me? Why aren’t people tested for that?

Most importantly, I’d like for women to be able to sue men who endanger their lives and bring them discomfort because, in many cases, a women’s uterus is completely removed when HPV is not detected early enough. I want to push for a law to safeguard the rights of women who discover their husbands’ infidelity or their dishonesty about HPV.