Chlamydia

"You have chlamydia," I said, and waited while the Farsi interpreter relayed this to my patient, a young Afghani woman with two kids wiggling on her lap. She smiled brightly at me after receiving the news.

"Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection," I continued. She nodded pleasantly. I enquired about sexual partners.

"She's only had sex with one person, ever," the interpreter stated. "Her husband. And he's only had sex with her."

I explained again that the bacterial infection was contracted sexually, and went on to describe the antibiotic dosing, and the need for her husband to be tested and treated as well. Her cheerful response suggested that something was being lost in translation, and at the end of the visit I emphasized that it is impossible to get chlamydia in a relationship where two people have only ever had sexual contact with each other.

Her smile faded, and she asked a few quick questions through the interpreter. "Can you get it from a towel, maybe?" she asked hopefully. "Or from the swimming pool?"

I shook my head, and when a quietly angry look settled on her face, I knew she understood. She purposefully tucked the medication into her purse and left the office, her two kids skipping after her.