I was convinced I had a nasty hangover. Then my GP said it was an STI I’d never heard of

I noticed blood in the toilet bowl after using the bathroom (Picture: Darren Shoneye) Looking down, my eyes widened. The toilet paper I’d just used to wipe myself with was drenched in a pinky-red liquid. That’s when I saw the toilet bowl. It was filled with my blood, a gory, gruesome sight – and I was absolutely petrified.  This is the reality of what it was like to have shigellosis, a horrendous gastrointestinal disease – often spread through adults as an STI. At 39, it was the worst experience of my life.  It all started in December 2023, when I went to dinner at a friend’s house before a night of clubbing. Everyone was in high spirits and excited for the Christmas break. We went to a venue that holds up to 2,000 people, then two more clubs after that. I had a fantastic time, dancing, drinking and laughing with my friends. And the icing on the cake? I met someone from out of town, at the club, that I really, really liked. We met up again, later on in the night. We kissed, and things became more intimate. I called 111 and told the person on the line my symptoms (Picture: Darren Shoneye) We kissed, and things became more intimate (Picture: Darren Shoneye) And, if I’m being honest, he wasn’t the only one…   When I woke up on Sunday, I felt rough but I put that down to a heavy night of partying. I dozed on the sofa and waited for my hangover to pass.   It wasn’t until Tuesday – three days after that night out – that I started to get worried.  My stomach was cramping and I had no appetite, so I took some paracetamol and that seemed to do the trick. Then on Thursday, I noticed blood in the toilet bowl after using the bathroom.  By that evening, I felt sick, like I constantly needed to go to the toilet and was having severe bloody diarrhoea every two hours. It was terrifying.  On Friday morning, when I still felt no better, I called 111 and told the person on the line my symptoms. They told me to try eating dry bread, but that seemed to irritate my stomach, and make matters worse. I had diarrhoea up to 12 times each day (Picture: Darren Shoneye) I’d already been through the worst of it (Picture: Darren Shoneye) Over the next few days, I had diarrhoea up to 12 times each day. The only thing I could keep down was water. Even soups would send my symptoms spiralling.  It was so isolating, and I became conscious of how much weight I was losing.  I went to my GP and did a urine and stool sample. After I described my symptoms, they said it might be shigellosis – a gastrointestinal infection caused by a family of bacteria known as shigella. I was confused, I’d never even heard of it before.  By the time I got my test results back confirming that was what it was, the GP said there wasn’t really a point in prescribing antibiotics, as I’d already been through the worst of it.  We all have to be aware of our sexual health (Picture: Darren Shoneye) They also told me that they would be alerting the Health Protection Team – who provide support and advice on infectious diseases and infection control – and they called me later that day.  On their advice, I spoke to everyone that I was with that weekend but no one else had any symptoms, nor were they unwell.  Shigella is found in the faeces of infected people, in contaminated food or water or on surfaces. It can also be passed on during sex.  The Health Protection Team said it might have been the latter, but it also could’ve been contaminated water in any of the places I went to.  I’ll never know for sure how I got this. But I think it’s really important that gay men are aware of shigella. At the end of last year, the Government issued statements about ‘extremely drug-resistant shigella’, saying they wanted to specifically warn gay and bisexual men.  We all have to be aware of our sexual health and not just rely on taking PrEP to remain sexually healthy. Lots of gay men think prep is all they need to worry about – but it doesn’t protect you from most STDs.   Even now, a month on, I’m still experiencing stomach pains and cramps. I’ve been told that it could take several weeks before my bowel movements return to normal, maybe longer, as I have IBS.  So please everyone, look after yourselves. And you won’t have to go through what I did. Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected].  Share your views in the comments below. MORE : Golden Bachelor star Gerry Turner got his very first STD test for show aged 71 MORE : Map reveals areas with highest rates of STIs in London MORE : STIs ‘out of control’ in the US after 937% jump in syphilis among newborns

I was convinced I had a nasty hangover. Then my GP said it was an STI I’d never heard of
A selfie of Darren topless, from the shoulders up
I noticed blood in the toilet bowl after using the bathroom (Picture: Darren Shoneye)

Looking down, my eyes widened. The toilet paper I’d just used to wipe myself with was drenched in a pinky-red liquid.

That’s when I saw the toilet bowl. It was filled with my blood, a gory, gruesome sight – and I was absolutely petrified. 

This is the reality of what it was like to have shigellosis, a horrendous gastrointestinal disease – often spread through adults as an STI. At 39, it was the worst experience of my life. 

It all started in December 2023, when I went to dinner at a friend’s house before a night of clubbing. Everyone was in high spirits and excited for the Christmas break.

We went to a venue that holds up to 2,000 people, then two more clubs after that. I had a fantastic time, dancing, drinking and laughing with my friends.

And the icing on the cake? I met someone from out of town, at the club, that I really, really liked. We met up again, later on in the night. We kissed, and things became more intimate.

Darren Shoneye and his twin
I called 111 and told the person on the line my symptoms (Picture: Darren Shoneye)
Darren topless at a club and incredibly muscled
We kissed, and things became more intimate (Picture: Darren Shoneye)

And, if I’m being honest, he wasn’t the only one…  

When I woke up on Sunday, I felt rough but I put that down to a heavy night of partying. I dozed on the sofa and waited for my hangover to pass.  

It wasn’t until Tuesday – three days after that night out – that I started to get worried. 

My stomach was cramping and I had no appetite, so I took some paracetamol and that seemed to do the trick.

Then on Thursday, I noticed blood in the toilet bowl after using the bathroom. 

By that evening, I felt sick, like I constantly needed to go to the toilet and was having severe bloody diarrhoea every two hours. It was terrifying. 

On Friday morning, when I still felt no better, I called 111 and told the person on the line my symptoms. They told me to try eating dry bread, but that seemed to irritate my stomach, and make matters worse.

Darren taking a selfie with his phone in the mirror, showing his t-shirt that reads
I had diarrhoea up to 12 times each day (Picture: Darren Shoneye)
A selfie of Darren on the tube, wearing airpods and a black jacket
I’d already been through the worst of it (Picture: Darren Shoneye)

Over the next few days, I had diarrhoea up to 12 times each day. The only thing I could keep down was water. Even soups would send my symptoms spiralling. 

It was so isolating, and I became conscious of how much weight I was losing. 

I went to my GP and did a urine and stool sample. After I described my symptoms, they said it might be shigellosis – a gastrointestinal infection caused by a family of bacteria known as shigella.

I was confused, I’d never even heard of it before. 

By the time I got my test results back confirming that was what it was, the GP said there wasn’t really a point in prescribing antibiotics, as I’d already been through the worst of it. 

Darren with his dog
We all have to be aware of our sexual health (Picture: Darren Shoneye)

They also told me that they would be alerting the Health Protection Team – who provide support and advice on infectious diseases and infection control – and they called me later that day. 

On their advice, I spoke to everyone that I was with that weekend but no one else had any symptoms, nor were they unwell. 

Shigella is found in the faeces of infected people, in contaminated food or water or on surfaces. It can also be passed on during sex

The Health Protection Team said it might have been the latter, but it also could’ve been contaminated water in any of the places I went to. 

I’ll never know for sure how I got this.

But I think it’s really important that gay men are aware of shigella. At the end of last year, the Government issued statements about ‘extremely drug-resistant shigella’, saying they wanted to specifically warn gay and bisexual men. 

We all have to be aware of our sexual health and not just rely on taking PrEP to remain sexually healthy. Lots of gay men think prep is all they need to worry about – but it doesn’t protect you from most STDs.  

Even now, a month on, I’m still experiencing stomach pains and cramps. I’ve been told that it could take several weeks before my bowel movements return to normal, maybe longer, as I have IBS. 

So please everyone, look after yourselves. And you won’t have to go through what I did.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

Share your views in the comments below.

MORE : Golden Bachelor star Gerry Turner got his very first STD test for show aged 71

MORE : Map reveals areas with highest rates of STIs in London

MORE : STIs ‘out of control’ in the US after 937% jump in syphilis among newborns