He Said, She Said: Chlamydia?
A female claims to have gotten chlamydia from me twice, in 1986 and 1989. I couldn't have done it, since I never had any symptoms. Pelvic inflammatory disease was diagnosed in her in 1986 and chlamydia in 1989. Tetracycline was prescribed to her both times. No MD ever asked to speak to me. Doctors have told me that chlamydia testing back then was extremely unreliable and as recently as 1992 was stopped at George Washington Medical Center because of high false positives and negatives. Is there any way to test now if I ever had it? Is there any record of test reliability in that time period? Would I have any noticeable symptoms if I had it? Any other comments?
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease, with an estimated 4 million infections from the organism occurring every year. The infection can cause serious problems in women, beginning with pelvic inflammatory disease and possibly leading to ectopicpregnancy or infertility. Almost three quarters of women with the disease don't notice any symptoms, which can include vaginal discharge or painful urination.
Diagnosis of chlamydia is difficult, as you point out, but some newer and more accurate diagnostic tests are available. Scientists at Johns Hopkins have developed a new urine test for chlamydia that is simpler, more convenient, and just as sensitive as older methods (taking small scrapings of cells from a woman's cervix or a swab from a man's urethra). The Hopkins test uses a technology called DNA amplification, which is like a super-copying machine for genes. By producing millions of copies of genetic material found in the chlamydiatrachomatis organism, the disease is more easily detectable in the laboratory. The Hopkins test is especially useful to determine if treatment has been successful.
There's certainly no way to test now whether you had it years ago. There's a high chance that chlamydia will be asymptomatic in men, which is one of the reasons it gets passed around so much. In fact, reported cases for women are more than five times as great as for men, in part because men are rarely tested for it.
When the symptoms do occur in men, they commonly include mildly painful urination and a scanty to moderate penile discharge. You probably should have received tetracycline in the same dose as your partner. Any time one sex partner has chlamydia, the other one should be treated as well.
Finally, I think it's important to remember that both parties need to take responsiblity for sexual health these days. I detect a tone in your question, implying that your woman friend was somehow at fault. Laying blame has no place in this discussion.