Making Choices to Protect Myself
I lost a relative to HIV. I was a child when it happened, so I do not really think I understood what HIV was. I knew that they were sick, and I do not think they were taking their meds. It was devastating for me to lose a loved one as a child, especially when it felt like they could have stayed alive longer. I was sharing this story with a woman I am dating, and she asked me how often I get tested for HIV and STIs. I told her that because I mostly dated women, I didn’t need to worry about getting tested as often. Her face looked surprised when those words left my mouth. She asked me why I thought that.
We had a good discussion about transmission rates and how HIV and STIs are transmitted. She reminded me that I do not always know the sexual partners of the people I am sleeping with. There are also still options for protecting myself, like dental dams and insertable condoms. Since things were getting serious between us, we decided to get tested together. She knew of a local place where we could get tested for free. It also took away the stress and judgment since we decided to go together.
Getting tested was such an effortless process. I just showed up at the testing site and filled out an information form. I got a number and waited for maybe 15-20 minutes. Then, I was called to the back room where the testing was done. I peed in a cup, had my throat swabbed, and blood drawn. The entire process took maybe another 15-20 minutes. They told me I’d get my results through a portal in about a week. It was nice to know that I wouldn’t have to go back for a follow-up visit unless any of my results came back reactive.
Me and the woman I am dating decided that we would show one another our results when we receive them. It’s not about trusting one another; it’s about being open and honest so that we both feel safe. I plan to be monogamous with the woman I’m currently dating, but I’ll still maintain getting tested once per year. There is no harm in just getting tested and having peace of mind. I’m proud of myself for getting tested with a new partner and being open to new ideas. Having lost a loved one to HIV, it’s even more apparent to me that I need to make choices to protect myself.