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Jonathan P.

February 2001

Getting the Test

I went and got tested. That's right after about three times of having unprotected sex in my life, I thought it about time to shape up and get tested. The whole process seemed like something I needed to do but something I'd never thought of before. Kind of like getting the oil changed in your car, or cleaning out the garage. Just one more thing we don't think to do but should do at some point in our lives.

So here I am, the guy that decided to get tested. I talked it over with my friend Jeff and at-the-time interest Brandon. Brandon thought it was a great idea. He and his lesbian friends Sara and Nicki thought it a wonderful idea. Jeff said all was fine and not to worry. I'd never given it much thought. I'd donated blood a few times and I figured that was enough. Only problem was this guy that nobody looks twice at, got laid approximately three times in one year. Go figure. I took the entire thing rather candidly. I looked on the internet for AIDS information. Wouldn't ya know, there wasn't much. Oh there was plenty of information on AIDS, how it affect the body, but I couldn't find much in lieu of HIV and what it means; in simple terms. I finally stumbled onto a website that gave the name and location of places to get tested and a sort-of rough idea of HIV.

HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, is the disease that causes AIDS. Symptoms can show up in as little as six months or as long as ten years. Early symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, and enlarged lymph nodes (organs of the immune system easily felt in the neck and groin). These symptoms can disappear in a short time and be written off as just the flu or something. Apparently this is the most infectious time for a person with HIV. During this period, known as the asymptomatic period, is when large quantities of HIV is present in the bodily fluids.

HIV then begins to multiply, infecting, and killing CD4+T cells, also known as T4 cells, the bodies key defense against disease and illness. Other symptoms that may be experienced before the onset of AIDS is:

1. Lack of energy

2. Weight loss

3. Frequent fevers or night sweats.

4. A persistent yeast infection. Basically this is white patches in your mouth, because of too much yeast in your saliva.

5. persistent skin rash or flaky skin.

6. and finally Short Term Memory loss.

AIDS is the advanced stage of HIV. People with fewer than 200 CD4+T cells per cubic millimeter of blood are considered to be in the late stages of HIV. Healthy people have a CD4+T count of around 1,000 or more. However testing for AIDS and HIV is not a common procedure. You must specifically request this from your doctor or a health worker. The testing phase is done to determine for the antibodies for HIV. Testing is done in two forms:

1. ELISA (enzyme-linked immunoadsorbent assay). A sensitive immunoassay that uses an enzyme linked to an antibody or antigen as a marker for the detection of a specific protein, such as those for HIV.

2. Western Blot. Transfer of protein from the blood to an agarose gel or a paper like membrane, then once baked with ultra violent light, the antibodies for HIV can be seen. The Western Blot is only used if the ELISA test comes back positive.

So now you have a basic idea of what I got before I went in for the test. I was scared to death, I don't have to explain that to anybody. I was afraid that a few of the people I had had unprotected sex with, who were also very promiscuous, might have the HIV virus. It'd been six months or so since my last possible exposure. I looked up on the internet for a place to get tested. The best place is the National HIV testing resource:

http://www.hivtest.org/locate/index.htm

I surfed over to there and punched in Georgia, Augusta and found several places. The first few I called I got this strange feeling they didn't really want to test me. I called a place called Prime care and got a recording. I was put on hold and told to wait for a counselor to tell me where to get tested. In the process I was told it would cost 90 dollars and would take about three days to get the results. Being the poor nineteen year old I am I immediately hung up. There's no way I could afford ninety dollars, even if it meant my life.

The next few places I called were Planned Parenthood and a local clinic that was supposed to offer strictly HIV testing. Planned Parenthood was a caught a little off guard by my question. I spoke to three people and neither were sure Planned Parenthood did the testing or how much it would cost. They suggested I call back the next day. I could be dead by then. But I still called and spoke to a lady about it, I was told that Planned Parenthood does to HIV testing for thirty five dollars and the results would be back in a week. I got the impression that they thought I was heterosexual. The woman asked if I was getting married or wanting to have children and I replied with a definite no.

The second so-called testing center had been turned into an outpatient clinic because it could not generate enough money from HIV testing. I learned that through some careful research through the newspapers. Finally I called the local health department. It took several attempts but I finally got a lady. I had previously been getting just her voice mail but this time I got her. I asked her about the test and she told me to come in that day.

When I arrived I was feeling very nervous. I walked in and took a number, signed my first name to a sheet, and sat down. A lady came out and asked what I was there for. I told her and she quickly blacked out my first name on the pad and told me I didn't need to give my name at all. She then walked down the hall and apparently notified those responsible that I was there.

A few minutes later a lady came out, smiling and happy, and asked me to come back. We went into her office and she shut the door. I sat down next to her desk and she spoke to me with a smile and in a very candid frank manner. Her first words out of her mouth was: "Do you have any questions for me about the test?" I said no. She asked me why I wanted to get tested. I told her that I had had unprotected sex with several people and basically was paranoid and afraid. Her answer: "Perfect! That's the best way to be with this." She then became slightly serious and told me she needed to ask me a few personal questions.

The first couple of questions were basic health questions. Have I ever had this disease, any other STD's, anything like that. I answered no. She then explained the two types of testing they offer:

Anonymous Testing: This is just what is says. Anonymous. There is no data whatsoever recorded about my visit. No statistics are kept on my results and my information is never told or disclosed to anyone. Completely anonymous.

The second test was the confidential test. This would mean that I would need to give my social security number, name, address, telephone number, and health status. My doctor would know and so would certain state health workers. I was not comfortable with this and opted for the anonymous testing. I expected her to be slightly disappointed or show something from my answer. The lady merely smiled and went on her way. She asked me if I had had sex with male, female or both. I told her male strictly. She asked me about any symptoms I might have had; Night sweats fever, rashes etc. Next it was time to draw the blood. I was scared and very nervous. I numbly got up from the chair and moved across the room to another chair with an arm rest attached. The lady got out her needles and test tubes, all the while smiling and asking me if I had any questions for her. I asked her what were the symptoms of HIV. She said they could take a while to develop but told me. She joked about never being able to lose weight if she tried. Her manner was very candid and friendly. Comforting also comes to mind. This was a better reaction than I had received calling the local hospital and Planned Parenthood. I watched with a locked, stern expression as she stuck the needle into my arm. I wanted to see it go in. I braced myself and didn't flinch as I normally do when then needle penetrated my veins. I watched the test tube fill up with my blood. It was dark red and the glass of the test tube seemed to disappear. The lady filled the test tube and pulled the needle out. She gave me a band aid and we went back to her desk and the other chair.

She filled out some information on a sheet and gave it to me. My sheet had a serial number on a sticker mid-way down. She told me that I would not be able to get back my test results without this sheet. She then asked if I wanted any condoms. I said no. I've decided a celibate life is a good life. She agreed. She then asked if I had any questions. I asked her about statistics. How many people get AIDS and what is the statistic. Like is there a one in every forty type thing. She told me because of the anonymous testing there is very little statistics kept on HIV and AIDS. She did admit however that since September, she told seven people they were HIV positive. The age range was 17 to 40.

When I left I felt slightly dazed and relieved. For a moment I thought the worst was over, but then I looked in my hands at that testing sheet. It chilled me for a moment. I took a deep breath and drove home. I ignored Brandon, a boy I was in interested in, his voice echoing over the answering machine. I took the calls from Jeff and Nicki. They wanted to know the results ASAP; everybody would say that. I told them I would and went to bed.

The first night was like hell. I didn't sleep. Every tickle, every cough, every itch made my hair stand on end. I thought back to my first boyfriend Josh and how shocked I had been to learn I wasn't his only boyfriend; he had three at the time counting me. I guess when you look like a Backstreet Boy sex just comes easy.

That night I fell asleep around five in the morning or so. When I awoke some ten hours later, I didn't want to get out of bed. I wanted to stay under the warm covers. I didn't want the sun to seep in and hurt my eyes. I didn't want to feel the cold drafts on my legs. When I did open my eyes, I sucked in that first deep breath, the one that burns as your lungs expands. "My God I'm alive" I thought.

Saturday is my day off. I didn't have to do anything. I was still worried most of the day. Before my shower that evening I looked at myself in the mirror. "What does somebody with AIDS look like?" I asked myself as my eyes starred back at me in the mirror.

This became a ritual each night. By day four, Tuesday, I'd taken to sudden bolts from my bed at four in the morning, scouring every inch of my body for a sign. Wednesday I told the rest of my friends about getting tested. They seemed genuinely interested but I didn't feel that they truly cared. I was numb to the world.

Friday. One week since I sat in that woman's office, watching the blood being sucked from my arms. I had a doctors appointment. I told Jeff and he said I was becoming a hypochondriac. I've always felt something was never just right with myself. My doctor could sense this but he didn't know I had gotten the test. He told me I seemed fretful and worried. I shrugged it off and said it was nothing.

Brandon called me on my cell phone. He asked me why I hadn't been calling him or why I hadn't been online. I told him I was slightly worried about the test and it was starting to affect my personality. Since getting the test Brandon seemed less of a person to me. It was cruel I know but I told him that I wasn't ready for a relationship. He seemed like he was going to cry. We talked a little more and he said it was all right, he knew I hadn't been interested in a relationship in the beginning.

I hadn't been sleeping well and asked him for some pills. He gave me some light sleeping pills and asked if anything was wrong at home. I told him no and left. Later that day my father and I went shooting. With a back-of-my-mind delight I found out where he stowed away his pistol. My rifles were always in the trunk of my car but they're not as accessible as a pistol. That night after my body check I took two pills and rolled around helplessly trying to sleep.

Around three I got out of bed and walked into the bathroom. It felt like I'd cut my tongue on something. I peered into the mirror and pulled and twisted my tongue each which way searching. There it was. A small white dot. I squeezed and pinched it but it didn't go away, just hurt worse.

I spent a good ten minutes starring at my tongue. As I laid in bed I began to feel guilt. Why does this have to happen to me? Why can't AIDS just be some fairy tale parents tell their children so they wont become gay or have sex.

At four thirty the phone rang. Being still slightly awake I ran to check the caller ID. It was Brandon; I didn't answer it. I didn't feel like talking to anyone really. He'd been very forthcoming and very obsessive with me but I just didn't feel the same way. After I told him I wasn't ready for a relationship he called almost three times a day. He left dozens of messages for me of how much I would reconsider and how much I would enjoy a relationship with him. My feelings and emotions were running away from me and I couldn't stop them.

On Saturday I woke up around one pm. Jeff called and we went out shopping. We went to a grocery store that had a large organic section. I threw a few items in the buggy for the hell of it.

Midway through the Kosher section I asked Jeff about Michael, a one night stand I'd had several month prior. His answer was to the point: "Oh he's a slut!" We talked some and it really hit me about people. Mike and Barry and Josh, three people I'd had unprotected sex with. Three people I have risked my life with. Three people who were sexually active and I didn't know a damn thing about them.

I left Jeff's' house but not before I tried one of his Vegan delights. With a stomach full of wheat grain and Tofu I raced home. I ignored my parents and went straight to the shower. The hot water was a good comfort for my body. I stayed in until my skin was wrinkled and my core temperature was up at least five degrees. In the mirror I checked my tongue. The white mark was still there. I did the daily check over my wet, naked body but didn't find anything.

Wrapping a towel around my body I hurried to my room. With the door shut and the lights out, I threw myself onto the bed and buried my head into the pillow. My head hurt and I could feel pain swell inside of me. My throat was sore and I choked back tears. Why does this have to happen now? I cried myself to sleep; life isn't supposed to be a fairy tale.

Sunday I woke up a few hours before work. At my job I spoke to no one and just did the work. I raced home and went straight to bed. I resisted the urge to get up and look at my body. Sleep didn't come till many hours later.

Monday I called the clinic. I'd been calling since last Thursday. Each time the lady said the results weren't in. School felt strange. I paid close attention and wrote down everything. School suddenly seemed much more important to me. I felt a need to excel. I always dreamed of myself as a lawyer or a rich executive. The thought of life being cut short just seems so foreign to me.

At work I told my friend Josh about the test. He asked if the results were in yet but I told him no. He's really the only person at work I trust or even really talk to. Everyone else is in this popular clique. Most of them are gay and I just didn't seem to fit in. I had this paranoid feeling that if they thought I had AIDS, would I be embraced by the clique? I worked very hard that night, doing what I could to ensure that my mind and body would both be equally tired. That night I slept slightly better than previous nights.

Tuesday I had to be up early. History was at eight. After I parked my car I walked slowly to class, my foot giving me trouble because of a knot made from my shoes. The desks were awkward and hard. I couldn't see the bored well.

The class was boring and long. I constantly toyed with the sore on my tongue. The more I poked at it the more I felt compelled to listen and pay attention, as though that bit of pain from touching it was keeping me from falling asleep.

When nine-forty five ran around I nearly tore out of the classroom. I limped out toward my car. At first I thought it was dust or maybe sand in the air. I stopped and asked a girl: "Is it snowing?" She laughed and told me I wasn't crazy, it was indeed snowing in Georgia.

I drove home watching the snow more than the road. It was really coming down now. When I pulled into the driveway I noticed both of my parents were gone; peace and quiet at least. I pulled in front of the garage and turned off the ignition.

White powder floated on the windshield. Deep inside that fear came back. My eyes burned with tears and I sort of lost myself in the white of the snow outside. I want to live. I want to live and see this again. In that car, with the snowing falling all around, I decided something for myself. No matter the result I will work to live life to its fullest. This is not a fairy tale, it's my life.

I dried my eyes, opened the car door and got out. The snow landed on my face as I tilted my head back and starred into the sky. I felt the tiny stings of cold snow hit my face and closed eyes. Opening them I decided it was time to come in from the cold.

Wednesday. I slept the whole night through. I got up and dressed casually, a slight shirt, slacks and a sports coat. The snow had stopped during the night and I knew by mid day it would be gone. School today was Math and Humanities. I didn't mind either anymore. I actually looked forward to them. My self reconciliation was done and my soul was back in tack and my mind was set.

Math was great and Humanities was even better. I listed to my brilliant professor speak on Hinduism. When our break came; the class was two and a half hours long; I walked outside and sat on the brick wall. Pulling out my cell phone I dialed the clinic. The lady took slightly longer than usual but then told me the results were back. My heart stopped for a moment. I quickly thanked her, hung up, and walked back into class.

I wanted to tell someone the results were back. I walked up to my professor and waited for him to finish speaking to a student. I thought better of it, though, and went back to my seat. I'm slightly scared again. It's getting hot in the room. I took a deep breath and reassured myself that life would be all right. I quickly regained my composure and listened to the secondary teacher talk about music and the joys of playing an instrument.

At work I told Josh and he wished me luck. The time went by quick and I wrote letters to the Oasis magazine editor. He wished me the best and told me all would be fine. Deep down I believe he thinks I'm nuts. I think a lot of people think I'm nuts for worrying. Then again they're not the ones with their lives hinged on a test.

At home I didn't look in the mirror. I didn't worry about a thing. Beside my bed on my knees I looked up with my eyes closed and prayed for the first time in a long while. I'm not religious but I figured if there is a God then I'd better pray just in case.

Thursday.

My eyes open then close again. I'm trying to catch the wake-up train out of bed. But I'm still lying here, any moment the alarm clock will go off. Today I have history class. Today I find out the results of my test. I walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower. With the lights off in the early morning darkness, I washed quietly under the luke-warm water.

Getting out of the shower, I hardly glance at myself in the mirror. I dried slowly and deliberately, threw in my contacts and splashed on some cologne. In the bedroom I dressed in a very comfortable pair of slacks and a t-shirt covered by a hooded sweat shirt. Outside the air was cool but not cold. I started the car and drove to school. The sun was out and it felt hot on my skin. At school I found a parking place quickly. Ignoring my sore on my foot I quickly made my way into class.

History was actually interesting today. I listened intently through the interesting, yet arduous lecture. When the clock came around my way I somberly got out of my seat and left. Outside the sun was shinning bright and hot; no snow today.

I drove home in relative silence; no radio or music. Amy called on the cell and asked if I wanted to go to lunch. I said "ok" and told her I would call after the test. She told me I would be fine and wished me luck. After I hung up I got out of the car and went inside.

At home I spoke to my dad about my shoes; replaced the loafers for tennis shoes out of the closet. I was feeling very distant, detached from reality. The impending test is starting into my consciousness. I push the thoughts deeper into my mind and force myself to think of other things.

Taking my mind off things I checked email, checked it again, then just gave up and did my best to waste time. I looked at a letter from a friend, watched my three legged turtle, then to the picture on the wall; my family. I looked at the pictures of my cousin and thought how long its been since I've seen her. I looked at my parents. Our relationship is strained and confusing but I love them so much. The time really slowed down.

Noon. I told my dad I was leave for a bit and would be back later. Then almost as an after thought, standing in the front door, I called out: "I love you!" but closed the door before I heard an answer.

I drove quickly downtown arriving a good thirty minutes before my appointment. I sat in the car and tried to read a book but I just couldn't focus. I starred silently at all the cars driving past. I was beginning to feel suffocated. I opened the car door and breathed in the cool winter air, deep into my lungs.

At twelve-forty five I got out and walked slowly into the clinic. I walked to the infectious disease area and was surprised by the number of young people waiting; four including me; two boys and one girl. I gave my sheet to the receptionist and she told me to wait.

After a few minutes a lady came out and asked me back. I got up and followed her into the same office as before. She sat me down and then pulled my record from the filing cabinet. She took a moment to read it. I took a deep breath and smiled as my eyes met hers. The moment had finally arrived, twelve days come to an end. As I sat in the office with my hands in my lap, the lady opened the folder and told me the results of my test.....

Jonathan

U2pop@home.com

Jonathan is currently attending college in Georgia. He loves to recieve email and talk to people. You may contact him at u2pop@home.com, or on ICQ: 46055570


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