Why Are You Afraid?
I am a product of the eighties. How I didn't get HIV during that time, I am not sure. Not that it's anything to be ashamed of, but back then people were, sadly, dying like crazy from the virus. A lot of my friends would go to New York City and come back and find out they were HIV positive. By the grace of God, I was able to avoid that. I remember years ago, where you would go for an HIV blood test and two weeks later you would have to come back for the results. There were no rapid result tests. They would sit you in a room alone and the nurse would come and say “hi, how are you?" Even if you were not HIV positive, you would have to go back to the testing center, and you would be a nervous wreck waiting for the result.
I went down Andrews Avenue in Wilton Manors the other day, I always drive by the Broward House clinic located there. This particular day, I saw a sign that said free HIV/STD testing. I had been thinking about getting tested for a while, but I did not know where to go to get this done. I had not been tested in 5 years up to this point. I called the number on the sign and the gentlemen at the front desk couldn't have been more kind, accommodating and welcoming. For someone anxious about testing this made all the difference. I made an appointment and I went in. I had all the blood work done that they offered for HIV/STD testing.
I did have a test come back positive for syphilis, which I never knew I had, there were never any symptoms. It just blindsided me. Not that I'm a Mother Teresa award winner, however that was dumbfounding finding this out. Everyone at the treatment center was so sympathetic and explained the steps I would need to take to bring me back to health. They did set me up with the Health Department where they were very organized. I had more blood work completed there too and was given antibiotics for 29 days, and then I had follow-up testing. My levels of syphilis were high. They told me, “you have had this for a while.” Up until this point, I had never had an STD test. It just was never offered at the doctor’s visits and I didn’t know how to secure these services. It is good to know now that there is so much help available.
For someone who has no family, or really any people around, it is such an anxiety relief to know that someone cares and is there with a phone call to check in and remind you about your appointment.
Now I am getting the syphilis treated, and I got on PrEP through the CAN organization. I am also receiving emotional support to help with some of my worries. Because I'm not employed, these organizations supported me by not only getting me the medication free of charge, but also delivering the medication directly to my house. There is so much help out there that I was never, ever aware of.