With cold, clammy hands and a lump in my throat I dialed from the lobby phone at ARC, Dayton OH – “I’m here to be tested.” I’m 32 years old, why was this my first time here? Getting tested for the HIV virus is something I had thought about many times but actually doing it has been something that frightened me and for one reason alone. Doing so would force me to face the reality of some poor decision making and uncover and bring to light, my internal and self confidence issues that ultimately lead to making those decisions.
In life we love. In fact, finding love and being with someone for the rest of our lives is something each of us desire at one time or another. We often say that with love comes hurt and though at times it does, love can certainly have other consequences. Often we get caught up in the emotions and happiness of finding someone that we neglect not only our own needs but also tend to lose the relationship between ourselves and that inner feeling that keeps us from making well thought out decisions. We focus on protecting our hearts and fade out that inner voice that helps to protect what’s more important – our lives. I am willing to bet that I am not alone on this one.
The Ghost of Sexual Past
One of the things in the past that I have not always considered is that though I may have been somewhat responsible throughout my life, I’d rarely question a partner, a boyfriend that is, on their responsible decision making. Naïve as it may sound I never once second guessed what I’ve been told with regard to the sexual past of my partners. I’ll question their commitment to me, where they’ve been late at night and who they’ve been hanging out with but not who they’ve slept with? Strange. Over the last two years I have determined that in love I become a total ass. I get caught up in a fairy tale and lose sight of what is important. Only over the last year of my life do I fully understand what it means to respect not only yourself but your body and how important it is that your value of yourself take precedent over all else.
Have You Ever?
Those who know me know the things I’ve had to overcome in the last two years. Admittedly, I have chosen to have a good time rather than face the issues at hand from one time or another. As I sat there in the testing room with the Counselor answering the standard questions and my answering no to most, I had flashbacks of several occasions when I was in no position to make any kind of decision let alone go home with someone which probably would have lead to more answers being yes. Luckily, my friends have kept me out of harm’s way on numerous occasions but what if they hadn’t been there? One stupid mistake and life as I knew it could have changed in an instant. I thank God every day that because of the support I have in my life that I now value myself more and do my best to keep out of sticky situations but there is always that chance when you are feeling down to succumb to behavior that will aid in making the wrong decision. View your life as the miracle it is and never forget that.
Was I surprised? Not in the least yet waiting for the Counselor to turn the swab around was the longest 15 minutes of my life. The experience was eye wakening and the conversation was life changing. If you are one of the people that still thinks of AIDS as being a GAY or Drug User disease, you’re wrong and that thinking is detrimental to awareness being raised amongst all. I assure you ALL of us need to be more aware. Think back through your life and understanding the risks, there may have been a time that you too once put yourself into the red zone. Though you may not think that your behavior is risky if you think back to every sexual encounter you’ve had I’m positive there was a time when you weren’t always of sound mind…more than likely there was a spontaneous moment or two. If not, keep up the good work. I commend you but always consider all the factors because remember it isn’t just where you have been but where your partner has been. Know and understand all of the risks. I don’t think after going through the testing that I will put myself at risk again. A negative read had a positive impact.
I share my above experiences only because I know many of us have been there. I would never criticize anyone for how they choose to live their life but I would encourage that from time to time you think about how much you really respect your own life. If at times your behavior or actions indicate that you’ve not fully considered the impact on your life those actions may have, then it may be time to rethink how you’re living your life. Respect yourself and the lives of others. AIDS is not one dimensional. It is a disease of mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, men and women whether not by fault or by one mistake this disease is affecting millions and no one “type” in particular.
Never violate the sacredness of your individual self-respect. – Theodore Parker
AIDS Resource Center Ohio is proud to offer an orally administered, rapid result HIV test. The test is free, painless, and quick! The test is administered confidentially and anonymously by request and requires only a swab of cheek cells from inside your mouth. Twenty minutes later and under normal circumstances, you will be presented with preliminary positive results about your current HIV status.