Thursday, April 17, 2008

"if I have AIDS, I don't care"

I honestly wish I could blog about my job every day because it truly is fascinating. Yes, I do love my job so I may be a little biased here, but one of the coolest things about my job is how I get to meet all sorts of different kinds of people and then I get to talk about sex with them. Specifically, safe sex.

And then after talking to them about sex, I tell them about our free HIV testing.

After doing this for nearly 4 months now, I have heard all sorts of reasons why people don't want to get tested.

"Ummm...I got tested a month ago, that's right. A month ago." Uh huh.

"Well, I don't like needles." Yeah, so we swab your gums. No needles necessary. "Yeah, well, I just ate lunch."

"I don't have sex, but I'll take your free condoms just in case."

"I was at the doctor last week and they tested me for diabetes. And when they take your blood, they test you for all of that stuff, like HIV." WRONG.

"You see, I don't sleep with prostitutes. I used to a long time ago. But now I don't. I only sleep with clean girls. And clean girls don't have AIDS."

But I stopped cold when I got the following response: "I don't want a test. If I have AIDS, I don't care!"

Really? Why? How low must this person feel if they don't even want to get tested? If they don't care about dying?

He walked away and I was left stunned into silence. I didn't have a snappy comeback or witty remark to make him come back. I was struck by the anger and despair in his voice. Even now, I can still see the blank look on his face as he said those words, the attitude he gave when he walked away.

I think about that person every day. I wish I could've done more. I wish our verbal exchange had gone differently. Part of me hopes that he'll open up to someone some day and come back to get tested. Part of me knows that he has to come to this decision on his own.

And part of me kinda wanted to give him a hug. Whatever it was that he was dealing with must be difficult. And it sounds like he's mad at the world and has lost all hope of things getting better.

Sometimes people need a reminder that other people care about them. I'm not sure if any reason is a good reason to give up living.


aneo said...

For some people HIV is not the worst thing that can happen to them. It's a horrible concept to wrap your mind around, but when you're living day to day in pure misery it doesn't seem like it would make any difference to just add HIV to the mix (especially if worrying about preventing HIV interferes with the few means of escape -- like IDUse -- a person has).
I hope he does come back before he gets infected. For some people, peversely, getting a positive diagnosis is a means of getting their lives back on track, because it gives them access to the kind of support services they needed all along.
That's the paradox of living with HIV in the States: yes you have an incurable infection, but you also qualify for all the social support services that other 'developed' countries take for granted. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

would a blood screening done before surgery check for HIV? ~erika

intellileg said...

Depends if you're in the DC area. There's supposed to be routine HIV testing for all blood draws -- which means it's part of the medical form signed before the blood draw. You can refuse it... if you read the fine print.

lizzie said...

aneo: i understand that having HIV is not the biggest concern for some people especially if you don't already have a roof over your head and you dont' know where your next meal is coming from. and then there are all of these resources available to people with HIV so i can see why someone in a really bad situation would want to be HIV+. it's unfortunate, really.

erika: DC is an opt out city ever since last year when the city launched its campaign to test everyone between 16 (I think) and 80. that means you'll get tested for it unless you refuse. obviously there are pros and cons to this method. but if you're looking to test large numbers of people with no regards to the emotional ramifications of testing, then opt out is the way to do it.

intellileg: i second that!

Anonymous said...

how many seconds into the conversation did the thought "this is gonna make for a great blog entry!" cross your mind? 5..4..3..2..1..?

lizzie said...

anon--ummm...actually, this happened a while before i wrote about it. i couldn't stop thinking about it, so i knew i just had to purge my feelings in order to let it go.