Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

If You Pass The Test You Can Beat The Rest

After I took the HIV test last year, I promised myself I was going to take another one 6 months after, just to make sure (it takes about 6 months for the virus to be detectable, thus the window period). But it took me more than a year to haul my ass to take another test, and only after I found out that one can take it for free at the Social Hygiene Clinic at the Makati City Hall.

D and I decided to take the test together; furthermore, D also invited his two gay friends (V and K) to join us. So there we were, a 44-yr old together with an 18-, 19- and 20-yr old braving the Monday afternoon Makati traffic. We were advised to go there around 2pm, so that there won’t be that many people.

The Social Hygiene Clinic is located on the 7th floor of the City Hall. There’s always a long line at the elevators, so patience is needed. While we were waiting for our turn at the elevator, we were all joking and laughing and generally trying to ward off the worry and the fear. D asked me if I was okay; he usually does that when he notices me going all quiet and serious. I had put on my Take-Charge McVie; being the oldest made me feel responsible for my three companions.

From the elevators on the 7th floor, the clinic is the third door on the right; there’s a big sign that says, “Social Hygiene Clinic.” We went in and were greeted by 5 or 6 women seated around two desks by the entrance. They all looked at us, but none of them moved or said anything. For a moment I was speechless. They looked like they saw aliens; their facial expressions read, “Hey! We have people. So soon after lunch break?”

I spoke first. “We’re looking for Ms. Tess Pagcaliwagan,” I said. A portly, middle-aged woman with curly salt-and-pepper hair and wearing thick eyeglasses asked, “Why are you looking for her?” she asked. In my nervousness I answered, “We’re here to take the AIDS test.” A pause, and then I corrected myself: “I mean, the HIV test!” And to break the awkwardness, I added, “Hindi pa yata full-blown kami.”

The nurses turned out to be friendly and accommodating, especially when they realized the three were young beklettes. Ms. Tess had us fill up forms; they never asked us for our IDs, so technically you could use a pseudonym on your form. But I chose to write my real name. If I turn out positive, I wanted it to be on the record. She then sat us down one by one for a short interview and orientation. She asked me primarily how I found out about the voluntary test. She also clarified that several other cities aside from Makati (I remember Marikina in particular) that offered this free testing.

Then we were ushered to another nurse who was to extract blood from us. When I was a lot younger I was deathly afraid of needles; but one day I just decided not to be a pussy and just take it like a man. I would usually look away when they were about to stick the needle in. For me the only “painful” part is the slight prick that happens when the needle punctures your skin; parang kagat lang ng langgam, my mom used to say. Looking away meant I couldn’t anticipate when the pain would happen, thus lessening my anxiety. But this time I did not take my eyes off the needle. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel anything; it was as if the needle slipped easily between my skin. “Wow ma’am, ang galing ha! Walang aray!” I had to compliment the nurse. And unlike in my first test, they didn’t extract a syringe-full of blood; they filled just a third of it.

Then came the waiting. I asked Ms. Tess how long the results would take. She said in 15 minutes. (It was that fast because no one was ahead of us.) But really, it was the waiting that was the hardest. I mean, I am fairly confident that I’ve played safe all this time, but you still won’t really know, right?  Life can throw a really mean curveball if and when it wants to.

At first we were joking, but soon our talks turned a little serious. “If you turn out positive, do you think it’s a punishment from God?” V asked out loud.

From her desk, Ms. Tess immediately responded, “Hoy! That’s misinformation! That’s not true.” We fell silent then changed the topic.

Around 15 minutes later, a nurse stepped out of the lab with four folded pieces of paper. She handed them to Ms. Tess, who then called out our names one by one. “V!” she said, and V nervously approached her desk and sat before her. We couldn’t hear what she was saying, but from the smile of V’s face when he stood up afterwards told us that his test result was negative. The next to be called was K. He too left Ms. Tess’ desk smiling.

I was the third to be called. When I approached her, she just said, “Congratulations! Here’s your diploma!” and handed to me a piece of paper; written on it was the word “non-reactive.” She reminded me to still always play safe, and that I should take the test every six months.

D also turned out negative.

Afterwards, all four of us wanted to celebrate by gobbling up KFC’s Double Down. We’re afraid of dying due to complications from AIDS, but we’ll happily die of a heart attack due to clogged arteries.

* * * * *

Interested to get tested? Please do so. HIV is on the rise, especially among men who have sex with men. Better get tested twice, with the second one after 6 months. Testing is really easy and the results are confidential. Is the testing discrete? Well, the clinics are found in the city hall, so there are lots of people roaming around. If you bump into someone you know, just be prepared with an alibi. “I’m here to pay my land tax,” if you bump into each other somewhere within city hall. “I’m accompanying my friend,” if they bump into you inside the clinic (or you can always turn the tables on them and ask, “And what are you doing here too?”).

For more information, click on this link.


Ming Meows said...

nakakakaba talaga mag-take ng test. i know coz i've had. matagal na nga akong hindi nagtake.

Felipe said...

kinakabahan ako just by thinking about getting tested.

ayan na.... ayan na.... hihimatayin na ako.... waaaaaaahhhh.....

Guyrony said...

Kudos for spreading the word and not the virus.

Glad you guys are clean and safe.

Social awareness, we all need them if we want to support people and make then realize that it's not that hard to be tested. What's harder is getting one with it being too late.

I assume both of you are safe, seeing Mr. K and Mr. C by the bed side.


(inside joke)

Désolé Boy said...

ako rin kinakabahan just by thinking. anyway wala pa naman akong experience sa hardcore sex.
pero kahit na. hindi rin masasabi sa daming b eses ko ba naman naospital at kinuhanan ng dugo. nasalinan din pala ko ng platelet dahil sa dengue.

erwin said...

my test is long over due. it's been more than a year since i had my last one.

Anonymous said...

good public service talking about this. :) im taking one again on dec. i do it routinely, parang pokpok.

Anonymous said...

natakot ako bigla. I remember my friend na pulis cnamahan ko sa St. Luke para mgapatest. pero ako d pa ako nagpapatest.

the barefoot baklesa said...

that is so apt, and less than two weeks before the World AIDS Day... yeah, testing is just the tip of the iceberg, knowing how to deal with it is half the battle, and dealing with it, is already full of consequences... kaya Ingat talaga.

keep it negative

CCM said...

It's definitely very VERY scary. Haven't taken my test because I am freaking scared. Reading your entry scared the shit out of me. But thanks for sharing this... I will most likely change my mind soon

PluripotentNurse said...

Very well said! Like this post. Haven't take the test also but im looking forward to test myself also. Thanks for the info!

erwin said...

Rick and I had our HIV test this afternoon in Manila Social Hygiene Clinic. We are a bit scared but fortunately, the results are good cause we're both negative :)