Last Friday, May 17th, I attended an mixer event sponsored by The Wall Street Alphas to raise money for the AIDS Walk. Also sponsoring the event was www.JustBeenTested.com, a social networking website geared around the importance of KNOWING YOUR STATUS. The creator/founder, my friend (and fraternity brother) Alonzo Davis was there... with a mobile HIV testing center! I firmly believe and support what his site is doing and, while I knew my status (I was tested during a check-up a few weeks back), I like to lead by example, sooooooooo.....
I GOT TESTED!
People think it's a scary experience, but it's wayyyy simpler than they think. I walked into what seemed like a bakery van and was instantly in a doctor's office with two nurse practitioners. They were both super friendly and asked me to fill-out a few papers: one just asked some office-type questions (name, address, etc) and the other was a verification form for www.JustBeenTested.com. Oh, I forgot to mention, a cool part of the site is that when you do things like get tested (the results aren't given or asked for; it's just a form that you scan or fax to say that you did it), comment on posts, or stay active on the site, you win $100 gift cards, t-shirts, and more. So by getting tested and filling out that form, I got points towards that gift card that I know will come in handy next month around my birthday. :)
Anywho, the nurse practitioner sat me down, asked me if I've ever been tested before (uh, yea, Shanelle doesn't play that!), and then asked me the one question that kinda got into my head:
"So if for some reason this test comes back positive, do you feel that you have emotional support to help you deal with it?"
Whoa. That was kinda scary... but a good question. I hope more people think about that when they're engaged in risky behavior. I told him yes, and he made me sign the form stating my swab number. He handed me a small swab stick and told me to rub it across my cheek and over my gums. That was it. Test done. No blood, no needles. But now...
The longest 20 minutes ever! It felt even longer than the line to go to the Statue of Liberty on the 4th of July. This is the part that Chris Rock talked about in Bigger and Blacker: "Here's where you start to think about every questionable piece of a** you've ever had..." lol. Even if you know you've been good, haven't done anything, and have been negative before, you still start thinking "What if the negative I got was a mistake? What if those 5 HIV tests I took were all flawed??? AHHHH!" My advice at this time, go somewhere, have a drink, listen to some 2 Chains or something else mind-numbing and calm it down. Until you get bad news (and I pray you don't) there's no reason to get worked up.
I came back 20 minutes later, and my nurse practitioner confirmed: I'M HIV NEGATIVE, BABY!
He proceeded to give me a round-trip Metrocard (YES!) and a JustBeenTested gift bag, complete with JBT lip balm, hand sanitizer, and mints... all so I can attract someone who I can get down with and end up back here getting tested. JUST JOKING! All nice gifts to keep on me to make sure I tell others about the value in getting tested and the coolness of knowing your status.
I hope this story made you a lil less weary of the idea of getting tested. It's not a game: more than 1.2 million people in the United States are presently living with AIDS, and 1 in 5 people are unaware of their positive status. Crazy, huh? Don't end up in this statistic. Wrapping it up isn't enough. Condoms break and there are STIs/STDs you can get even using condoms. If you're grown enough to be getting busy, you're grown enough to have the conversation about testing before you do it. Shoot, there's nothing sexier than a clean bill of health! For realz.
ANDDDD make sure you join this awesome site that "wants to reward you for knowing your STI status and for adding to the dialogue about sex, relationships and overall sexual health."