little pricks

As an open-minded responsible health-conscious public health sector worker bee, I feel that it is my duty to practice what I preach. Every year around the first day of summer I get tested for HIV. I don’t think that I have HIV, I don’t worry about getting HIV, and I don’t sweat the waiting period for my results to come back. While they are poking around in the crook of my arm I also get tested for a bevy of other diseases and conditions too. These things I worry about a bit more because they are communicable and I do a lot of communicabling, but I try not to panic to the point of losing sleep. I can’t afford that these days with the monkey running amok.

I do this because I am constantly telling others to do it. I do this so I get a little bit of the feeling of anxiety, fear, and even relief that other people feel when they get tested so I can better empathize with what they must be going through when they work up the nerve to get the test done. I do this because I have friends and family members living with the disease. I do this because I know people who are no longer living because of the disease. I’ve done this all alone at my family doctor, I’ve done it with friends at Planned Parenthood. I’ve done it with my partner in the room. I’ve done it with clients at the clinic. I do this because my job strongly advises it. I do this because my doctor strongly advises it. I do this so I know, and like the poster on the bus says, “knowing is beautiful”. I do this because it’s the kind of messed up world that we live in and it only makes sense to take care of yourself.

Unfortunately, routine HIV testing will likely be a reality for Jake when he is an adult. When I was his age there was no such thing as HIV. When I was eight years old I brought home a note from the school nurse telling our parents to warn us of the dangers of sharing food, silverware, glasses, kisses, and hygiene products with others because you just never knew. We’ve come a long way from there thanks to education and research. I guess.

A nurse at work spotted the Bandaid and asked me what kind of blood work I had done and if I was pregnant again, and when I told her (“Oh, I got a CBC, a full culture, and an HIV test. I do it every year.”) she took a step back, said “Mmmm. I don’t do all that” turned and said under her breath ” I trust my man”. Nice. You trust him to what? Be sure that you don’t sit in body fluids or needles on the bus? Assure that you are only given healthy patients at work? That you don’t make home visits as part of your job? Keep you in a bubble so you aren’t coughed on, sneezed at, or touched by another human? Way to go. You’ve caught yourself a winner. Fortunately for me, I’m allowed out of the house. I do have a world to save after all.

A social worker overheard the conversation and wanted to know if I tell my partner that a full culture includes STD’s. She doesn’t tell her boyfriend that she gets tested every year, she just tells him it is a screening for nutrients in her blood if he asks about the needle mark in her arm. Good. Smart. Lie to him.

Do I tell? Of course. It doesn’t mean I’m accusing him of whoring around, or admitting that I’m a big old tramp. It means that I am assuring that I am healthy for myself, for my partner, and for my baby. And I want to see how my cholesterol is doing and whether my rheumatoid levels are up. It is all very responsible and adultish of me, no?

Well, enjoy the night part of your Friday. Wash your face and hands. Take care of the world. Get an AIDS test.

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