It was World Aids Day on Monday, the first of December, and I had dinner on that night with a couple who have been together for decades. The lady was telling us about a guy who is suing his doctor for a false HIV positive that ended up costing him his family, his mental health and eventually his job. It took years for him to get another test that showed he was never HIV positive, but by then his wife had left him and taken the kids with her. This led to a conversation about HIV and Aids and how it doesn’t have to be a death sentence, and I said that people have even lived with it for three decades.
We then started talking about testing and the quick methods being used these days. I stupidly asked the guy (because he had brought up tests) if he has had an HIV test recently and he said yes. You should have seen the wife’s face. I realised that just like that, I had walked into a puddle of the brown stuff. Our innocent conversation had taken a turn and our dinner was about to change.
I tried to excuse myself from the table but the wife gave me a look that said “don’t you dare get up” so I sat and played with my potato, feeling like a naughty little girl. She asked him why he had had a test and he said he was having a physical, and when the nurse asked if he would like an HIV test he said yes. He just wanted to know – it was not about infidelity – rather getting the complete package at the doctor’s office. He then explained that this line of questioning is what keeps a lot of people from getting tested for the virus and knowing their status. We continued with our meal and managed to have a pleasant evening but I am sure that guy was put through more rigorous questioning in my absence.
The conversations that HIV brings up are not comfortable. They are laced with fear and judgement, though I must say we have come a long way in the last 30 years. I have never lived in an Aids-free world. In fact, HIV has been a backdrop to my whole sexual history. It was the biggest monster on the STI list in high school, and throughout university we were implored to use condoms and get tested constantly. Entire relationships have been had with condoms on and that does not sound crazy.
So in case you forgot, make a point to stop by your local VCT and get your free four-minute test. HIV and Aids are no longer the death sentence they used to seem. With proper diet and medication, you will live a long and full life, have kids if you want and in fact pursue all your dreams. Just get it done so you don’t infect those who have given you pleasure and perhaps love.