WHEN Southampton student *Lucy logged onto a social networking site, she never expected to find out that she had a sexually transmitted disease.
She had just started to settle into her first year at Southampton Solent University; learning new things, making friends and seeing what Southampton had to offer.
"I was nervous about how I would cope, but I was fitting in really well. I’d made loads of friends - I’d even been a hit with the guys for the first time,” says the 19 year old.
Lucy had gone with friends to a house party close to her student residence in the city centre when she first met *Darren. There was an instant attraction to each other and they quickly hit it off. “A hot guy who was interested in little old me! I couldn’t believe my luck."
The young student took him back to her student halls after a night fuelled with alcohol, flattery and long conversations. “Although I had only known him for one night, he didn't feel like a stranger," she says.
The pair spent the rest of the evening together, drinking more alcohol and had unprotected sexual intercourse. Although Lucy says she wouldn’t normally behave so recklessly, she admits “I did have a flash of worry but I’d had too much drink to care."
Having a man showering her in compliments all night made Lucy feel on top of the world and she went to sleep feeling happy about the night. It wasn't until she woke in the morning that she realised the risky situation that she had put herself in.
But once Darren woke up she felt much better, her previous fears were washed away when he was just as charming as the night before.
After weeks of texting the romance fizzled out, as Darren was only in Southampton visiting his friends. She didn’t feel too disheartened as she knew it wouldn’t work as a long distance relationship.
But her good feelings evaporated one morning when Lucy went to the university library and signed onto social media site Twitter, her timeline was filled with abusive messages - all aimed at her. She soon realised that she was the focal point of Twitter conversations and even had strangers sending her abusive messages, as well as tagging her in offensive posts.
“To my horror I saw 50 new Tweets from girls calling me really offensive names. I couldn’t understand where it had come from,” she recalls.
“I scrolled to the very first tweet and there was a girl branding me a ‘disease-ridden rat’, claiming that I had slept with her boyfriend and given him chlamydia.”
Lucy knew that it must refer to Darren and sent him a text message, demanding to know the truth. To her surprise she discovered he had been sleeping with several girls, while having a long-term girlfriend. He said that due to the distance he never thought his partner would find out about the night they had spent together. She was shocked when he causally went on to say that it was probably for the best, as she should make a sexual health appointment because it was likely he had given her chlamydia. “He told me so calmly, that’s what hurt the most,” she says.
“He wasn’t sorry about what he had done or how it had affected me. He was just sorry he had got caught.”
She felt devastated as the messages continued all day which made it impossible for her to concentrate at university.She began to feel depressed and ashamed of how irresponsible she had been.
The following week she went to Southampton Royal South Hants genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic. Although she was very nervous, she knew it was something that she had to do.
But it wasn’t as bad as she’d feared.
“The woman was so friendly,” she says. “She listened to what happened and didn’t judge me, as I sobbed through the story." She underwent tests and received free antibiotic treatment. Despite the fact that she would have to wait two weeks to find out the results of the tests, the treatment would cure the sexually transmitted infection within a week if she had caught the bacterial virus.
When Lucy received a text message a couple of weeks later to say the results were positive she felt betrayed. She wondered how she could have ever been so naive, to have unsafe sex with a man who was practically a stranger. The infection had been treated, but the emotional scars could not be healed so quickly.
“People don’t go out with their ‘I have chlamydia t-shirts’ on. I found out in a hard and very public way, but if I hadn’t I may never have known,” she says.
“I have learnt the hard way to always have safe sex. It was horrific and it took a long time to get over what had happened,” she adds.
“My Twitter settings have now been changed to private so I don’t receive any more hurtful messages, but the damage has already been done as far as I’m concerned. For a long time it felt like everyone knew and was judging me. I will never make the same mistake again.”
What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the UK.
Many people don’t notice any symptoms of the infection so it can go undetected and untreated.
If it remains untreated the infection can spread to other parts of the body and cause long term health problems, including pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.
Solent NHS Trust Doctor Elizabeth Foley says, “It’s important to remember you cannot tell someone has an infection from looking at them. Ten percent of young people have chlamydia and many are not aware.
“If you have engaged in casual sex it is important to go for a sexual health check up as soon as possible. People of all ages are welcome to come for a completely confidential screening, where treatment can be given for free if necessary.”
For more information about sexual health and sexual health clinics please visit: letstalkaboutit.nhs.uk.
*Names have been changed