An HIV Test: Easier Than I Thought
Originally Published: June 23, 2010
Revised: June 5, 2017
Last month, I was tested for HIV for the first time ever. Sex, Etc. is constantly encouraging people to get tested, and with HIV Testing Day coming up on Sunday, June 27th, I thought it would be a great time for me to get tested. I went through the experience of being tested, so I could better understand what it’s really like. Now that I’ve been tested, maybe my experience will inspire you to get tested as well.
I found a testing center by searching for one at HIVtest.org—a site with information on HIV testing sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV tests can be administered at Planned Parenthood, a local clinic or hospital. It turns out there was a hospital just ten minutes from my house where I could be tested. I called the hospital and asked for information about testing, and they told me that they offered free HIV testing between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and that walk-ins were welcome. I was surprised that there was free testing so close by.
On a Tuesday afternoon, I drove down to the hospital. A man sitting at the front desk asked me for my first name, told me to have a seat and wait until I was called in.
Getting tested was painless and easier than I thought it would be. And it was good to know my status.
When it was my turn to get tested, the nurse guided my down a hallway into a small office where she began by asking my name and address, fully explaining that all of the information I gave her was confidential and my results would remain private. She then asked me about my sexual history and orientation, and if I had been sharing drug needles or had any recent blood transfusions. She also asked me about my health, and whether I’d been sick or had consistent cold-like symptoms. After she was done asking me questions, she allowed me to ask any questions I had.
Then, the nurse explained that there were various ways to get tested for HIV. The test that she would be giving me was an oral test. I was relieved that they didn’t have to draw blood, and I was surprised with how quick the oral test was. She handed me a stick and told me to swab my gums on the top and the bottom of my mouth. She then had me turn the stick to the other side, and then swab my gums again. The nurse explained that the purpose of this was to attract cells to the stick because the HIV antibodies could be found in my cells.
I waited twenty minutes before finding out my test results. I was certain that my results would be negative, so I wasn’t antsy or nervous. But during those twenty minutes, all I could think about were other people whose results would be positive. I thought about how their lives would change, and I thought about how nervous they must be. I wondered what it would be like if I wasn’t so sure of my test results, and it was a scary thought. When I was called back, the nurse sat me down and told me my results. After revealing the results, she gave me a piece of paper stating that my results were negative so that I could keep it for proof of my results.
I was surprised at how comfortable the nurse made me feel. She was very caring, and I felt I could confide in her. She talked to me about practicing safer sex if I chose to have sex, so I could protect myself from getting HIV or another sexually transmitted disease (STD). The nurse explained that I needed to use a condom each and every time I have vaginal, oral or anal sex. The nurse also told me that I should get tested every time I enter a new relationship and that it was important to bring my partner to get tested as well.
Getting tested was painless and easier than I thought it would be. And it was good to know my status. Whether or not you’re HIV positive, you should talk to your partner about your status and practice having safer sex, if you choose to have sex, or be abstinent—meaning you don’t have any sexual contact with a partner. No matter what your results may be, knowing your status means you can take steps to get treatment if you need it and protect you and your partner from getting HIV or other STDs.
Now that you know just how simple getting tested is, find a testing center near you and take the test.
Please login to comment on this story
STDs. Those initials are a little menacing. But the full phrase, “sexually transmitted diseases,” is worse. STDs are those things health teachers show detailed, terrifying pictures of. Sometimes you just hear about the horrifying symptoms that…
Read Story »
In the fall 2013 issue of Sex, Etc., I wrote about getting tested for a few out of the many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) out there. It can be difficult to know which STDs to be tested for. To make […]
Read Story »
Though I’ve never had an STD scare, I’ve always gotten tested before having sex with a new partner. The first time I was screened I was still in high school and living at home with my religious parents who I […]
Read Story »