A One Stop Shop
When I was younger, I would not go get tested because of the anxiety associated with a positive diagnosis or positive result. But as I have grown older, especially in my sobriety, I realized that whatever you may have, there are medical treatments for it. The way to keep from getting sick and getting other people sick is by managing your health. It's not a question of having anxiety anymore. It's a question of being responsible and knowing that there's a safety net of people who can help you and medication that can help you.
I lived in Fort Lauderdale two different times in my life. The second time around there was a fundraiser I donated to, and I found out exactly what Broward House does. Before that time, I was not aware of the organization or how much it did for the community. It's not just the LGBTQ community, but homeless individuals and so much more. When I was looking for a place for testing, I didn't have to do research. I thought “I might as well use this resource.”At the time, I was in a bind. I couldn't get to see the doctor. It was just easier to go to Broward House.
I take my health very seriously. Now I'm sober. I've been sober almost five years. I get tested every three months for everything across the board because I am sexually active and I want to be responsible for not only myself, but also others. When I came into Broward House, everyone was nice and helpful. There was a diverse group of people in the waiting room and people were friendly. Broward House caters to a lot of different types of communities here in Broward County, or at least that was my perception.
The tester that came into the room the last time I was tested was very kind, friendly and calming. They explained exactly what they were doing, the length of time getting tested and getting your results. And of course, you know, the HIV rapid test is right there. They have condoms available throughout the office and the first time I went, and I left with a whole packet of information. I asked about PrEP and they were very informative and explained different ways to get PrEP free of charge.
For someone getting tested for the first time, or who might be nervous or scared, I would tell them “In the long run, it’s better to know.” As I said, because there's a safety net. Not only physical or health support, but also mental support. You have counselors and people who deal with this every day that can help. We're very lucky that we live in a much different world than my generation did where in the beginning HIV was a death sentence. It's only natural to have anxiety about it, but once you find out your status you have two options: first, if you get a negative diagnosis that's good news; Second, if you get a positive diagnosis, that means that you're cutting this off at the tail. You get on medication immediately. That's the good thing about Broward House, you get assistance right off the bat and can tell people where to go to get the medication, get the medical attention, get therapy. It's a one-stop shop if somebody needs help.