HIV Testing is Scary, But Worth It
My boyfriend and I went to get HIV tests yesterday evening. It’s National HIV Testing Day and we wanted to do our part to know our status.
It’s not something we were too worried about – we’ve been in a long term relationship in the Dan Savage sort-of-way for fours years, but safety has always been key.
We headed out to the Walgreens at Mechanicsville Trpk and Laburnum to get tested by the folks at Fan Free Clinic. They’ll be set up there all weekend in honor of testing day.
So as we navigated the surprising amount of traffic you experience in Richmond between 5:30-6:30 PM, we held hands. As gay men, we are disproportionally affected by HIV/AIDS, and this fact forever hangs over our head; the terrifying possibility that some past indiscretion could have left the virus dormant inside either of us, just waiting to change our lives forever.
We grew up watching Queer As Folk and, more recently, we saw HBO’s the Normal Heart - both programs unabashed in their visual depiction of AIDS as a gay-crisis, and rightly so.
About 22 million people have died world-wide from AIDS-related illnesses since the disease erupted in the early 80′s. Here in Richmond, 300 new cases were diagnosed in the last two years.
Admittedly, we’re fortunate to have grown up and entered sexuality some time after the disease left its biggest mark. We didn’t lose friends left and right, nor did we see a community unite around an issue as strongly as HIV/AIDS. The fight for awareness had already made headway in our community by the activists and health care providers before us.
But we’re still here and we still do our part. We filled out our forms and answered a short anonymous questionnaire about our habits for Fan Free’s internal records. We took turns sitting at the fold-out table, running the mouth swab along our gums.
Again, confident we would test negative, but living with the fact we could some day look the illness in the eyes and watch, if not ourselves, our loved ones drift away.
We sat and waited for our test results – holding hands still and trying to not think of the worst case scenario.
After the wait, we were called individually to get our results – a short speech was recited by a friendly volunteer – “This test only means you’re clean as of March, and you are encouraged to get tested every 6 months…”
I’m trying to not seem eager. I’m tapping my foot waiting for the word “negative” to come out of her mouth.
And it does. I don’t have HIV or AIDS.
I sight a bit. I’m excited, not overly, but enough to allow a smile to stretch across my face.
Susan Tellier, Coordinator of Community Care and Services for the Fan Free Clinic, greeted us with a big smile when we arrived.
She had been on site since 2 PM to get the testing event underway by 3. This is not the first year Fan Free has come out to this location, and it’s part of a multi-agency push to get people tested.
She says they’ve tested about 20 folks so far that day – there are about four getting tested at the time we arrive. But no matter how many people get tested, they hope they make some kind of impact. “It’s quality over quantity,” says Tellier. “If we can reach one person while they’re here, then it’s definitely a day well spent .”
Here are details on locations for testing:
Testing hours are Thurs, Fri 3-7PM, Sat 10-2 PM
Walgreens – 5122 Hull Street Road – (Hull and Warwick)
Walgreens – 3715 Mechanicsville Turnpike (Sec Mechanicsville and Laburnum)
Walgreens – 4845 S. Laburnum Ave.
June 28th, Richmond City Health District and Minority Health Consortium will be helping to provide testing and education at the “Reach Back, Reach Up” Mens’ Forum hosted by Radio One. The event is open and FREE to the public. There will be on-site counseling services for men and their families, powerful speakers, and prizes. The event is from Noon – 3pm at the Trinity Family Life Center, located at 3601 Dill Road, Richmond, VA. FREE Rapid HIV Testing will be offered from 11:30 – 2:30pm.
The VA Department of Health has partnered with Walgreens nationwide to offer free testing regularly – here in Richmond, you can get tested at:
Walgreens – 4845 S. Laburnum Ave. Richmond VA 23231, in RVA’s east end.
Give them a call at 804-226-4581 for hours of operation.
Tim is a writer, video game nerd, and music fan. You'll see him at shows, or you wont really see him at all.
“We are marching forward, leaning in, charging forward because we take seriously the importance of helping people restore their health”June 24, 2016
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