Your Life’s on the Line

It was a beautiful day outside. I had gotten off of work early and decided to walk around the neighborhood a bit. On my way, I passed a clinic that offered second hand clothing and quick HIV tests.  I  decided to duck my head in. Once inside, I perused the clothing, shoes, VHS tapes, and the computer screens…and decided I would get tested.
It wasn’t like I hadn’t gotten tested at the Doctor’s office, but this felt different. I signed a clipboard and began to fill out the questionairre on the computer screen. Where did I live? Had I lived on the street? How many partners had I had? Had I had same sex or opposite sex parners? Had I had sex for money? Had I had unprotected sex? I finished the questionnaire and sat and waited for my name to be called…which happened about 30 seconds after I had completed the questionairre.
I walked into the room and was greeted by one of the most pleasant men I had met. He introduced himself to me, introduced me to the process, put on some gloves, and pricked my finger.
Then I waited with him for what seemed like the longest 20 minutes of my life.
During that time, we got to talk about how he had gotten into doing the testing and the counseling…and he also disclosed his status: He was HIV positive.
He had received his diagnosis in the 80s, a time where there was not nearly as much support, outreach, or knowledge about the disease as there is now. He told me he’d had no idea how he had contracted what was known as a ” gay man’s disease” as he had only had sex with women…though their had been many of them, in many different countries. He told me he had not only contemplated, but also attempted suicide. He told me that the fight for his life was brutal; that no one thought he would make it and he wasn’t even sure he wanted to. Then, something happened. He decided he wanted to live.
He recovered, though the road was hardly easy. He recounted nurses being afraid to touch him once they read those 3 letters in his chart and the good feelings he got from learning more about the disease to advocate for himself and others. He told me how he had come from being beaten by the disease to being able to offer support for people who were newly diagnosed.
And then he read me my results.
Even though I had been recently tested, a million different thoughts went through my mind, so I can hardly imagine how people who have played a bit of roulette with their parts might feel.
Though it might be scary to know your status, it’s probably scarier to not know. If you haven’t been..

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