Here I am sitting in an airplane on an early morning flight from London Heathrow to Zurich Switzerland. This is a trip I did not want to make but I had to for my work.
The plane is unusually empty and quiet. In the back of the plane I can hear some passengers coughing. I wonder if they have the flu. An allergy? Or corona virus? I can sense the nervousness among my fellow passengers.
What happens if I get infected by the corona virus on this trip? How would I tell my wife? Would I self-quarantine somewhere away from home? Would I be able to see my family? I know that there is a high probability that my wife will be infected if I continue on with my normal life. I could be comforted that the chance of her getting a serious condition from the virus is less than 1%. Is it significant enough to disrupt our lives?
I am a 40-something man and have never fully understood how women who are diagnosed with HPV feel. I have been involved in developing a product that works for women with HPV called Papilocare. I have been trying to understand the patients’ experiences and their lives. But I never felt that I could.
HPV infection is so common that in most countries, women do not get tested for the virus. For the majority of women, their immune system can clear the virus without any medical help, although this could take six or more months. However a minority of women, 5-20 % according to various clinical studies, can continue to carry the virus and some of them develop abnormal tissues called lesions.
HPV is a highly infectious virus and patients’ partners can easily get infected. Nevertheless, like with women, men can also clear the virus naturally. The chance of them getting complications like throat or penile cancer is very low. If I were a young woman and diagnosed with HPV, would I stop having sex? Or would I continue with some protection for my partner? How do I cope with the fear that there is still a small chance that this could go wrong for the partner…
Getting back to my middle-aged man’s life, as I look at the morning sky from the small window, I decided my course of action in case I was infected with corona virus. If I develop symptoms and I have reasonable doubt that I had been in a high-risk situation, I will stay away from home and get tested. If positive, I will still go home but I will tell my wife about the virus. Then, I will stay in exile in my attic room for 14 days.
I can only imagine how anxious, frustrated and inconvenienced women with HPV can be during the 6+ months clearance period for the virus. For me, it will be just 14 days. How can I live an arrested life for over half-a-year, with all the inconvenience and fear that this might not go away.
As the plane made a slight turn, morning sun beam came into my face. The sky is perfectly blue. I feel somehow calmed down.
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