A Few Things I Need You To Know Before Getting Tested for HIV, As Told By Your HIV Tester

A Few Things I Need You To Know Before Getting Tested for HIV, As Told By Your HIV Tester

Welcome! Before getting tested for HIV, New York State requires me to go over a few things with you.

First, testing is confidential but not anonymous.

Second, testing is voluntary and can be stopped at any point.

Third, I can and will stop a test if I feel you are a danger to yourself or to others.

Now that that is out of the way, there are a few things I feel you should know before we begin.

Where you sit, thousands have sat before you. The results have been positive, negative and even a few times inconclusive. You are not the first and you won’t be the last. There will be thousands who come to me after you.

A Vietnamese woman in scrubs takes notes in an interview with a Vietnamese man.
Nguyen Thi Chien interviews a client at a USAID-supported HIV testing and counselling center near Hanoi. (USAID Vietnam/Flickr)

But today, you are sitting before me. You might be scared, indifferent, or even excited. It’s okay to be excited. It’s also okay to be scared or indifferent. Ask me anything and everything, as I am about to do to you. Have you ever been tested for HIV? No? Have you had anal sex in the past 6 months? Giving? Receiving?

Our relationship will develop quicker than a Polaroid picture. What about oral sex? Giving? Receiving? All within the past 6 months, correct?

Yes, I understand that no one can know you are here. This will be our little secret. Thank you for coming here today. I understand this can be an anxiety-inducing experience. Please, let me make this as painless as possible for you. I’m not here to judge you. That’s not my job.

My job is to educate you. I will teach you all the things that are owed to you. I am sorry that our health and sexual education has failed you. No, you can’t get HIV from saliva. Yes, anal sex without a condom puts you at a much greater risk of getting HIV. No, HIV is not a gay man’s disease. Do you know how to properly apply an external condom? Yes? What about an internal condom? No? Have you ever seen one?

I want you to know that I am not judging you. I really don’t care if you are a top or a bottom. I don’t care if your partners are male, female or beyond the binary. What I do care about is your safety. Are you protecting yourself? Are you protecting your partners? When you received anal sex did you use protection? A condom or a barrier? You have never heard of dental dams? Let me explain to you how to use one. It’s okay, we have as much time as you need.

Getting HIV tested isn’t a gay or bisexual man’s issue. HIV knows no gender, sexual orientation or age. HIV doesn’t discriminate. Luckily, neither do I. Please know my door is open to you. I have a warm seat waiting just for you. It’s your time. It’s your turn.

By stepping into this room you are going to be made completely vulnerable. It’s just me and you. Please don’t lie to me. This relationship is going to be built on trust. As I mentioned earlier, I am going to ask you very personal questions, and I ask you to trust me, just as I am trusting you.

Are you ready to begin?

 Featured image caption: OraQuick HIV test. (Casal/Wikimedia Commons)

Rebecca is a graduate from Stony Brook University. She has three years experience doing HIV/STD testing and outreach. Rebecca is currently backpacking solo overseas and hopes to get back to fighting HIV/AIDS stigma soon!

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