Having recently come out of a long-term, mostly sexless relationship -- my first, actually -- HIV tests have been somewhat of an enigma to me. They sort of just existed in the background. I've been tested, but always as part of a routine visit with my doctor. I'd never gone out and gotten an HIV test for the sake of the test alone. But since I've found myself reunited with the land of the sexually active, I've sort of had a nagging feeling that it's my responsibility to establish a regular HIV-testing pattern for myself.
Thank goodness for Whitman-Walker Clinic, because they couldn't have made it any easier. Since I hate having my blood drawn, I was pretty relieved when a friend told me that WWC offers oral-swab tests. Because of that, I did not have any anxiety about stopping by the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center on a recent Thursday for a free test. But after a couple questions to the receptionist, I learned that the clinic has switched to a finger-prick blood test for more accurate results.
I sat down with my two-page questionnaire, but all I could think about was whether or not the test would hurt. At least the questions provided some distraction. ''How many sexual partners have you had in the past 12 months?'' ''Do you practice safe sex when performing oral sex?" The blue folder holding my questionnaire must have flagged me as a test-taker, and a clinical worker motioned for me to follow him into a little room where I went off about how much I hate blood work as he prepped my finger. And just like that, it was over.
I can't explain exactly what the finger-clip mechanism he used to take a sample of my blood felt like, but I can honestly say it wasn't painful. And it literally took one second. I can do this every six months. No problem. And what's great about WWC is you don't have to wait days for your results. They're ready in 20 minutes. But that wasn't it for me. Apparently my answers on the questionnaire had subjected me to a friendly lecture on the importance of practicing safer oral sex.
Even that cloud had a silver lining: I got to help myself to a handful of vanilla- and cola-flavored condoms. Check the Community Calendar for more information about WWC testing services, visit the clinic at www.wwc.org or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.