Wednesday, July 22, 2009

sometimes all you need is a little help from your friends

Yesterday, my office was taken over by the IT guys who were trying to fix my new work computer.  Because the spare department computer was being used by someone who was taking a webinar, I had no access to a computer at all for about 4 hours yesterday.  In between clients, I sat in the waiting room, reading through some really boring DC regulation stuff for my program.

Shortly before noon, a guy and a girl came into the waiting room.  They checked in with the HIV counselors and were handed some paperwork to fill out (standard procedure before an HIV test).  The guy was gay and the girl appeared to be a very good friend of his.  He seemed really nervous as he was filling out his paperwork.  After the girl finished her paperwork, she rubbed her friend's back as he tried to get through his.  "Everything's going to be ok.  Trust me," she said in a soothing tone. 

Soon after, the HIV counselor came out and asked them, "Who's first?"  The guy turned to his friend and said, "I can't do this right now.  I'll feel better if you go first."  And then his friend disappeared into the counseling room.

While waiting, the guy was really fidgety.  I wanted to ask him if he was ok, but we weren't alone in the waiting room.  There were a couple of other people waiting for their results. 

Several minutes later, his friend came out and it was the guy's turn.  As he passed her by, she said, "It was easy.  Really.  I'll be right here when you're done." 

When the guy came out of the HIV counselor's office, he told the girl, "I have to wait 20 minutes.  I can't wait that long.  Let's go to Starbucks."  And off they went. 

About a half hour later, they came back.  The guy complained about how the coffee made him even more nervous.  When the HIV counselor came out, he called the girl first.  With confidence, she walked back into the counseling room.  I've seen that walk before.  I recognized her demeanor as one of someone who is expecting a negative result (usually rightfully so).

A short while later, the guy went in.  When he came out of the counseling room, his friend looked at him expectantly as a wide grin spread over his face.  "I'm negative!  I'm negative!" he exclaimed happily.  His friend gave him a big hug and said some stuff to him that I couldn't hear.  When they pulled away from the hug, the guy pulled a paper bag from behind him and said, "And they gave me lots of free condoms!  I'm never having sex without a condom again." 

I smiled to myself.  Sometimes scaring kids straight is a good method of HIV prevention.

As they got into the elevator, the guy pulled his friend into a hug again and said, "I'm so happy you came with me.  I wouldn't have done it without you."

The elevator doors closed and witnessing this whole exchange gave me the warm fuzzies.  His friend went with him and got tested to give him the support he needed to get tested himself.  How awesome is that? 

the image i got when googling warm fuzzies.  source

In my years of doing this kind of work, it's rare to see two people get tested together.  Usually, testing is a solitary event, with people sometimes going out of their way to get tested in a place where he/she wouldn't run into friends.  They're alone and ashamed and anxious.  I imagine that the short wait time to get the results when you think you might be positive feels like an eternity.  It can be a stressful event that one doesn't have to take on by him/herself.  Sometimes having a caring support system is all you need.            

This whole thing kinda makes me want to offer my support and company to anyone who is too scared to get tested.  Any takers?


Zipcode said...

what a great post -- I did a similar thing with a friend in high school who thought she was pregnant -- I went ahead and got a pregnancy test with her -- not the same as HIV, but I would always do this with a friend in need.

You are defintely in the right profession, glad there are people like you!

Shannon said...

I get tested as part of my annual physical, because that makes the whole process less scary. But I'd go with a partner because safer sex is a two-person effort. I've gone to the store for people to buy plan B or condoms.

Lexilooo said...

this just gave me warm fuzzies too!

anOCgirl said...

zipcode: thanks, zip! i have a feeling i'm meant to be here.

shannon: i've definitely seen people get tested as a couple. it's an awesome sight to see. i too get tested with my annual and i wish everyone would do that. hiv testing should be a routine part of medical care.

lex: yeah, i love feel good stories, especially if i get to tell one. :)

Marissa said...

Love this post. I think it's sad that there is such a stigma attached to sexual health in the US. It stops people from getting tested and in a place like DC it's even more important to be aware of your health status. There should be a campaign, like buy one test, get one free. There's no reason why this shouldn't be done in pairs more often. Keep up the good work!!

instatick said...

:) What a great post! It gave me warm fuzzies as well, as did the little baby rats.