Six months ago, D and I went to the Social Hygiene Clinic at the 7th floor of the Makati City Hall to have ourselves tested for HIV. We were with two other college friends of D. For them, it was their first time; I, on the other hand, was going for the first time voluntarily. (I was unceremoniously “dragged” to the testing booth along Orosa Street during my first time. At first I was unsure, but eventually I let myself be led to be tested; I thought, “Oh might was well, what the hell.”) After we tested non-reactive, we vowed we’ll have ourselves tested every six months.
Last Thursday we went again for the same test at the same Social Hygiene Clinic; the head of the clinic even remembered D. But this time we were with two new companions, a couple (let’s call them B1 & B2) who are also college friends of D. We arrived way past 2:30pm; my biggest concern was a long line of people having themselves tested too. You see, for now the tests at the social clinics are for free. That, plus the fact that I’m leery of government offices with their long lines and their 48 years of waiting time. But surprise! We were the only guests of the clinic when we went in.
We quickly filled up the required forms and one by one we had our blood extracted. The results were to be released after 45 minutes, so we were advised to go to the canteen one floor above. There we chatted and snacked while waiting. Well, D and I did the snacking; B1 & B2 begged off, saying they were full. I’m not sure if they really were, or they just didn’t have an appetite in the face of uncertainty. D was still worried, but seemed less nervous compared to his first time. We ended up pondering out loud, “What would we do if we find out one of us is positive?” I also got to know a bit more D’s friends. B1 is the film major and the chattier of the two; to do well in film, one needs to be personable. B2 is in fine arts; fitting that he’s the more quiet one (though I suspect he’s very talkative and engaging one-on-one).
After 45 minutes we went down. Without much ceremony the head of the clinic gave us the results, folding the slips of paper before handing them out to us one by one. She did it so casually, I knew all four of us were negative. But since this was B1 & B2’s first time, she also gave them a brief talk on safe safe and playing responsibly. I liked how she was careful to keep her talk nonjudgemental and inclusive; anybody from any religion or creed would not be slighted by anything she mentioned. “We’re human,” she said, “and sex happens.” But the numbers are rising fast, she said, enough to be alarming.
Before we went our separate ways, I invited B1 & B2 to join D and I when we have ourselves tested again. I hope they still join us six months from now.
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The reason why I’m blogging about this is not to gloat about the results. (And if anyone of us--especially me--tested positive, I might not even blog about it. At first.) Rather, I’d like to encourage those who have never had themselves tested to do so. It’s free, it’s easy and it’s relatively discreet. Those who have been sexually active with different partners for several years now and have engaged in unsafe sex practices, like barebacking, should have themselves tested at least twice, six months apart. (And after the first test, he must be careful to stick to safe sex before the second test.)
The earlier you know your status, the better. If you’re positive, then the more information and help you can get, the better your chances of staying healthy, and the more responsible you are of your body and of your sexual conduct to your future sex partners.
And if you want me to accompany you, I’m willing. (A caveat: I’d have to take time off from work, so it should be at a day that I’m not too busy.)