I got tested for HIV and every other known STD this week. Mosquito bites, toilet seats, shaking hands, dirty looks from people - myths, I know, but it doesn't hurt to be careful.
Of course you have to weigh being careful against the possibility that just by getting tested for HIV, you're admitting that you could conceivably have it, and then fate gives it to you. I honestly believe that if you got tested for HIV every single day for a year straight, and even if after your first negative result you never engaged in any behavior that could give you HIV, eventually you'd finally have to have it. There's no way you could get tested every day and then not eventually have it. It's tempting fate.
But getting tested once seemed safe enough.
While at the clinic, waiting for my turn, I watched the video and started getting paranoid. It was all information I'd seen before, but in this context, it really scared me. There was no rational reason to think I had HIV, but I started focusing on my physical problems of late (my eczema is still bad, my side kind of hurts sometimes, I'm tired a lot, I use the fifth notch on my belt instead of the fourth) and coming up with ways that I might somehow have it.
Somtimes I'll remember going on a field trip to the Dallas justice system in 3rd grade or 4th grade. I was a really naive kid, and outside of the courthouse I saw a used syringe on the steps. "Cool! A syringe!" I thought. And I picked it up, put it in my pocket, and it poked me. I went home and showed it to my mom, who was disturbed and told me never to pick up something like that again.
That memory stuck with me, and later, when I knew more about diseases, I thought about that needle, and wondered if I'd caught anything from it.
Logically, I can't have. I'd be showing more signs of it by now, and I donated blood so many times in college that someone would eventually have told me if my blood was poisonous and killing everyone who touched it.
Nevertheless, I was thinking about that needle, and what I would do if I found out I had HIV. I resolved that I would find AIDS jokes funny. Much funnier than I would find them if I didn't have HIV. The opening number of Team America: World Police would become the most hilarious thing in the world to me.
I wondered if Joe and Brooke would be uncomfortable living with me, and if I'd need to find a place of my own so I couldn't somehow accidentally contaminate someone, or at least constantly worry them. I'd never even so much as make out with anyone again was an obvious one. There'd be no problem getting involved with someone else with HIV, but I didn't think I'd want to go out of my way to find other people who had it. I doubted that would make me happy.
No, what I would do is move to the United Kingdom, where I'd have health insurance thanks to my British citizenship (though not very good insurance, I hear), probably to Brighton or some smaller city like that, live mostly in isolation, on a hill, by the sea, write... and slowly vanish.
And that was kind of an appealing fantasy to me.
Before I could take my test, I had to speak to a counseler. She asked me questions to figure out how at risk I was, and how much I knew about HIV. Apparently, my HIV education was better than most people's, even though I went to a high school where condoms were ominously referred to as "The C Word."
Interestingly, she also tried to gauge how I would react if I found out that I had HIV. Would she refuse the test if it seemed I'd react really badly?
"Have you ever been suicidal?," she asked.
"Yes," I said.
She gave me a "bad answer" scowl and typed away.
"Wait, no, no, I haven't," I corrected myself.
She stopped typing and raised her eyebrow at me.
"I mean, I've thought about it. But never seriously. I never actually wanted to do it."
She hesitated, backspaced, and typed some more.
"Would you kill yourself if you found out you had HIV?"
"No," I said confidently.
"Why not?" she asked.
I paused, thought about my fantasy, and said, "I would find my purpose in life outside of intimate human relationships."
"Good answer!" she exclaimed. "That's actually my preferred answer, but nobody ever says that. You'd focus on living your life, and not on the fact that you had HIV."
Kind of a reinterpration of what I was saying, but hey, I'll take the praise.
After my counseling, I had to wait some more before I could take my HIV test, and then have my blood drawn to test for everything else. The HIV test was a "rapid results" test, luckily, because the torture of waiting a week to find out would itself kill me.
They said it would take 30 to 45 minutes, but they called me back in after 15.
I went into the office, sat down, and looked at my counseler expectantly. She didn't seem to know yet. Guess they like to find out while you're there, so they don't have a tell-tale expression as you're coming in. What a hard job this must be! She typed something on her computer, seemingly to pull up the results, and then stared at them blankly.
"Huh," she said without looking at me. She stared at her computer some more, pressed some keys and looked at her screen again. "Hmm," she said, offering me no explanation whatsoever. Why wasn't she saying anything?? Because I had it, that's why! She picked up the phone, dialed three numbers and waited. Still without even a glance in my direction.
"Flavio," she said. "Do you have the results for number 63?"
"I am not a number, damnit!" I wanted to shout. "And if I was, it certainly wouldn't be 63!" I was shaking nervously. Was my UK fantasy about to come true?
"Okay," she said, hung up the phone, typed something else, and looked at the computer again.
"Your results are negative," she said with a smile. She obviously loved getting to say that. I almost collapsed.
"Have you had sex with or shared needles with anyone in the past three months who is at risk of having HIV?" she asked.
"No," I said.
"Then these results are definitive. You definitely do not have HIV."
I practically ran out of her office with joy, but controlled myself, because I didn't want to gloat in front of anyone who might be less fortunate.
And that's the story of how my dreams of living in isolation on a hill by the sea were dashed forever. At least for the time being.
So I'm back to my normal everyday life of living for the future by finding links for Office Pirates that never get posted, on the premise that I'm going to be around for a while, and I can put off doing what I really love until then.
Then again, next week I find out whether I have genital warts, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, crabs, vaginitis, or hepatitis. So maybe there's still hope.