It is national World Aids Day today and everyone is encouraged to get tested. Getting tested can be scary, trust me I know that panicky feeling you get when you are waiting for the results. I remember in college my friends and I decided to get tested together, since it was FREE and we needed the support of each other.
The testing took place in our school Student Center ballroom and many students actually showed up. I was suprised at how many people were making a positive decision to get checked. As relief began to flood me, fear slowly started creeping in. I was not sexually active as most of my friends were but I was no saint. Could I trust my partner, was he clean, were we 100% safe, what if I was, how would I react? Worse, what if people can tell that I got the wrong result!
The silence that swarmed the ballroom was as eerie as it comes. Watching the faces of many sexually active students filling out questionnaires that leads one to reexamine their choices can be quite overwhelming and daunting. As people were remembering how many people they slept with, if oral sex was given or received… I began to feel panicky and a part of me wanted to quickly and quietly creep out.
But I couldn’t, I wouldn’t.
I was not going to let fear and ignorance be a motivating factor in determining my future. As we stood in line to get orally swabbed, I couldn’t help but feel that I was walking into an appointment that would change my life if the results were positive. I could hear the nervous conversations around me and couldn’t help but to see the sense of humbleness that was slowly being embodied in every one of us. The gossiping simmered and the egotistical big weights at our school was the most demure I had ever seen them in my four years there.
As I handed my questionnaire and got briefed on how the testing was done, I couldn’t help but to think…what if this time I was not safe enough. It lasted no more than 1 minute but the wait was the worst and nerve-wracking thing I have ever experienced. My friends and I sat quietly, not to disturb the thoughts of one another, neither one of us wanting to break the hold that silence had placed on us.
23456853, my number was called and I felt as if all eyes were watching as I entered the tent to await my result.
“Jennifer, I want to thank you for coming out and getting tested. You are negative.”
I have never felt that relieved in my life. One by one my friends came out with smiles on our faces, knowing that this time we were lucky.
Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky. In DC alone the HIV/AIDS rate is estimated 1 in 20 adults living in DC with HIV. Common misconceptions are that HIV in the U.S. only affects older adults or men who have sex with men. But the reality is that infection rates among teenagers in DC has doubled in just five years. The vast majority of these new infections are through heterosexual transmission of HIV.
PLEASE GET TESTED AND KNOW YOUR STATUS!