I want you to know that I hate clinics. And pills.
A couple weeks ago, a person I had previously hooked up with contacted me to say he was HIV positive. I stood there quietly as I reread his text. I was shocked and didn’t know how to feel. I asked him when he found out and if I should be worried. He told me he had been positive for 6 months, but that he was undetectable now. He kept on insisting that we should sex again and to forget about using condoms. I stopped listening. He continued going on about how condoms burn him, make him break out, and how much he loved bareback sex. I just hung up. But I didn’t mean to be rude. He chose to engage in high risk behaviors and became HIV positive. I chose not to have sex with him again.
I walked into the clinic early in the morning the next day. I gave the receptionist my personal information and told her that I had been to this particular clinic before. She smiled and told me to wait in the lobby until I was called. I took a seat and saw a couple holding hands in front of me. They were watching T.V. and occasionally the guy would burst out laughing. I smiled. They were a cute couple. On the left of me was a girl who looked no more than 20 years old. She stared at the T.V., but never laughed. Not even during the funny parts. I continued watching T.V. until the nurse called my name.
I walked into the other room and knew the procedure. I took everything out of my pockets and got weighed. I had lost four pounds. The nurse gave me a small container to pee in and told me go inside the bathroom. I took a pee, left the container inside, washed my hands, and stared at myself in the mirror. I stood there for a few minutes. Then I began to cry. I don’t know why. After, I washed my face, walked to another room, and waited for the doctor.
She was petite and had a friendly smile. She asked the usual questions: Are you on any type of medication? Are you experiencing any type of symptoms? How many sex partners have you had since your last check up? I told her that I was not on any type of medication and I didn’t know what were symptoms of HIV. She started explaining a few symptoms and I just nodded. I really just wanted to leave. She then asked how many sex partners I had in the last year and suddenly I became sad. I told her I didn’t know. It was a pretty rough year for me. She told me to make an estimate, so I did. I had never lied to a doctor before. She made a note, walked toward the door, and said the nurse would be there shortly to take my blood.
I waited quietly for the nurse. She walked inside and told me to extend my right arm so she could take my blood. I did as I was told and looked the other way. I didn’t want to see her or the needle. I had always been afraid of seeing blood. As, I sat there staring at the wall, I thought about the first time I got tested and how scary the experience had been. I thought about the time I found out I had gonorrhea and the embarrassment I felt telling my partners. I thought about how much I hated taking the pill to get rid of it. I thought about how I could recall the number of sex partners a few years earlier and how I now couldn’t. I then felt a sharp pain on my arm. I never was used to the needle. The nurse told me it would be over soon. I said okay and continued looking at the wall. Time had never moved more slowly in my life.
Once done, the nurse gave me condoms and told me to check out in the front. I walked to the receptionist and she said that the clinic would call if the results showed anything positive. I thanked her and quickly walked to my car. I sat there and looked at the bandage that the nurse put on my arm and touched it lightly. The pain was gone. There was nothing I could do now, but wait to get my results. And for a small moment, everything seemed alright. I started the car, hid the bag of condoms in the glove compartment, and drove home.