Saturday, December 01, 2007

I know

6020 Stop Aids Now
Originally uploaded by Rienk Mebius
Uncertainty is not only a scary thing, sometimes it also creates a sense of safety. When you do not know for sure, you can live thinking that the status of things is the one you wish. A lot of us go forward in life based on this strategy – not wanting to know and not wanting to check. It keeps some marriages together and some working relationships going. We hope for the best and don’t check for the worst.

Today is World Aids Day. The Dutch Aids Foundation has been running a big campaign in the course of the last weeks with beautiful children looking into the camera in posters saying Stop Aids Now. I found the campaign highly moving and of great excellence – it states that AIDS is not only amongst the gay population and that it does not always show.

I watched just a while ago again the brilliant TV drama Angels in America which focuses on the 1980s in the US – the time when AIDS broke its way into the public sphere and caused fear and panic. We have come far from those times – the awareness of the AIDS situation in Africa is far higher and we as a society realise that AIDS is amongst us. This does not go without negative side effects. The fear and awareness caused for instance by Freddie Mercury’s death is gone and a lot of people act rather self-assured – not wanting to know.

I know. I did the test yesterday. Not out of any other reason but for the fact that every sensible person should get tested regularly. Those who have taken the test, know exactly how scary it is. Those who have not, let me give you a brief.

The clinic here in Amsterdam is quite busy. The test is for free and you hear the results in 30 minutes after the test. I started by waiting for my turn in the crowded hall. Some people come to the clinic with friends but most people are there alone. Joking is quite limited. I found myself looking at people and thinking:”Does he have it? Does he think I have it? Why is she here?”

After 50 minutes or so I was called into the informative session where they take your details and ask you some basic question. The woman yesterday was extremely nice and certainly quite used to nervous people. I found myself mumbling and making mistakes in my mobile phone number. She did not assure me that things will be fine – instead she asked:”What do you think the result will be”. After her interview I was sent back to the hall to wait for the test. It took ages before I was called. The woman was highly calm and kind – I took notice of the empathy in her eyes. She explained again what will be done. She started with rather frank questions about sexual behaviour, then took 3 samples of blood and asked me to get on the examination table. It is not too comfortable when you have different tools and sticks pushed into most holes in your body. I was gagging when she checked my throat with a sample stick. The other things you can imagine yourself.

After the test I was asked to give a urine sample and then wait for 30 minutes for the results of the HIV test. I tried to read a newspaper, but found myself walking back and forth to the coffee machine, going to the toilet, checking my mobile. The only thing occupying my mind was:”What if?”

After 30 minutes I was called into the room again. She told me that my results came through good and the result was negative. I started sweating out of relief. Funnily enough, I was not smiling too much. I must have thanked her four times when leaving the room. Never cycled that lightly to the centre.

Even if my test came through as I wished, AIDS is amongst us. It is not always a result of promiscuous behaviour. Some of us are born with it, some of us just have bad luck. Be safe. Happy World AIDS Day.

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