“Please quit the counselling part and get straight to the test,” I refrain myself from adding a prefix before the word test.
“But thats my responsibility. If they suspect that I failed to counsel you, I could easily get fired.” Says the nurse in the white coat.
Her name is Joyce. She told us that the moment we sat down and she set the countdown timer for four minutes. I guess thats enough time to get me and my partner composed enough for the test.
“Have you done this before? “ She asks my partner who’s trying to hide his anxiety with millions of questions which could be thought of as irrelevant.
As my partner reflects on the two times he has gone to the slaughter house, I am taken back to the millions of times I have been on this side of the Table while being asked the same question.
I remember the first time I ever did it. I was 18, had gone with my best friend and was nervous as my brother trying to lie to my mom about that thermos we all know he broke.
They all sum up to twelve times now. “I shouldn’t be nervous. I have done this before.” I try to calm myself but damn it, it’s a HIV test! A HIV test. Whatever I say won’t matter.
“I have been careful,” I think. “I have been fucking the same guy for the five months and we protect ourselves enough!” By that I mean he has been doing lotsa pullouts. What if he was infected before I met him. And what about all those girlfriends he constantly introduces as his friends? I look at him scornfully and hate him instantly. I will never fuck him again.
I remember all the boyfriends I have brought here. All of them evaded it like a plague until I called on the oh-halleluyah- we- are- not- having- sex- till- we- go- the VCT. All of them had been nervous. There were three who feared needles and no… Can I go to the toilet first.
A year later after my last VCT which I was forced into. Forced because the hospital has this policy on routine HIV tests and you have to undertake one. “We have realized that in this way we can identify any cases and help the victims earlier. “ Sounds logical but how do you hit someone with a mandatory HIV test?
“Having HIV does not necessarily mean a death sentence.” Oh fuck she read my mind. “I have seen many people who have lived up to 20 years and they are healthy. You can’t tell they are positive. You just need to start taking your meds immediately and stick to them.” Okay, has she already done the test and confirmed?
“What would you do if you found out that you are positive today?” She directs that questions to me saying nmenyamaza sana. I look at my partner and we both smile acknowledging a similar conversation earlier on that day.
“Wacha tu tufanye io test. “
“Sawa, nani wa kwanza?” Of course me. Am not even my mother’s second child.
She pricks my finger, drains the blood into some slim hollow thing and then empties it into that kit that looks like a pregnancy test. She then puts some iodine to help buffer the blood. She does the same for my partner. Brace yourselves!
During the wait, she explains how the test works. “You don’t need to explain to me? I have done a million pregnancy tests! “ If they are two lines, it’s positive. If it’s one it’s negative. If the one is on the opposite side, invalid.
My partner and I keep throwing glances at each other. Could we actually do this if we are positive? Maybe we could start an NGO and go around the country enlightening people on HIV and stuff. We could just start a family and take the cautionary steps to ensure our kids are safe. Meza dawa, piga tizi na maisha utayasukuma.
“Your results are ready!” Oh dear God! Do I really need to know? Maybe it’s for the best if I don’t know. It can’t kill you if you don’t know it, right? No news is good news. I saw a notice somewhere that people who go to the VCT will eventually find what they seek. This was a mistake. Two lines could change my entire fucking life. Do I really need to see this?
“Line moja si ni negative?” My partner asks Joyce.
“Compare results kwa ii chart.” She replies.
If his is negative probably mine is too. I look at mine and I see a steady red line. It’s negative. It’s negative! It’s negative!
I exhale and blow out that burden I had accumulated. It’s okay. Am okay.
I look at my partner and he is smiling back at me. All I can do is give him a hug. At least he has been careful on his side. We are okay for now.
“Mtafanya nini muendelee kumaintain status zenyu?”
My partner goes to explain how we will continue to use condoms. Yea right.
Right below public speaking, watching someone read your articles, lying to your mother, the police and men, I fear going to the VCT the most.
Am sure am not alone in this. So many of my friends have refused to go to the VCT. And I get that. Fuck, it’s scary.
But in a world where we are becoming more conscious of such issues, we should all try to be more relaxed. Try being in bold and caps.
When we were young HIV was such a big deal and you would think you were infected immediately after cutting your finger with your friend’s razor.
But with time, HIV has changed from a death sentence to something you can manage throughout your life. It’s difficult for me to think this way but am slowly coming to accept it. I mean, isn’t it better to have HIV than Cancer. Seeing the lives that cancer has taken and the many people who bravely live with HIV, it’s obvious it’s not the end of your life.
Of course prevention is better than cure but what happens when you find yourself positive. “You get yourself back up” says Asunta Wagura who was among the first Africans to come out saying she was positive. And that was in 1988. If she could turn her status into a social initiative that encouraged many people to live with HIV, I think that anyone can make lemonade from lemons.
I believe it’s prudent to take the test. If you don’t take it, you can live in oblivion for ever. But what if you infect someone? Isnt that just inhumane?
Go to the nearest VCT center. It’s usually free.