It had been thirty days since i had my first appointment where my blood was taken for an AIDS test. Inside of those thirty days i had some reason for concern about my possible results given some past experiences. For the most part I hoped all would be well.
My appointment was for just after lunch, and i got there in plenty of time. I spoke with the receptionist briefly when i got in, and took a seat in the waiting area. On shelving units to one side there were various pamphlets and i decided to take a look to see if anything had changed since my last visit.
The shelving units were filled with a whole host of social services and public health related information. However, there was no information about getting tested for HIV or any information about sexuality transmitted infections. The only vaguely related HIV information that was new, was another colorful English pamphlet highlighting the importance of street smarting one’s children for instances where they might come across a needle in a playground or on the street.
So i waited for the nurse who was tending to my case to come around and call me back for my results. I was perhaps five minutes early and as i waited my thoughts returned to uncertainties. It’s funny in a way, you go through your life feeling immortal, and you tell yourself AIDS and HIV doesn’t happen to you. It’s something that happens to someone else. Sitting in the waiting room was an exercise in quietly realizing that inside of the next hour my very life could change. Irrevocably. Quite honestly, it was a very sobering experience and something that i hadn’t expected but that hit right then and there.
So it was with a mixed sense of relief and a gnawing concern that i got up when my name was called. I accompanied the nurse to her familiar office and sat down. Inside of a folder with my personal details were my results on separate pieces of paper for each test as I’d signed up for all possible HIV and STI tests.
The kind nurse informed me of my results, one at a time and at the end the results were very negative and i breathed a sigh of relief. I was HIV negative as well as negative for the whole battery of other STI’s. Still i had some concerns about what would have happened if I’d wound up being positive. What sort of resources did the CLSC have available? Did the nurses working there have prior training in how to counsel with someone when they get possibly life changing news?
Well, i was informed that yes, indeed, the nurses who work at the CLSC have prior training in counseling persons who receive such news. Furthermore, if one does have tests showing them to be HIV positive, after initial discussion with a nurse they are referred to several social services organizations who can help with further counseling and follow up. Additionally, the nurse was pleased to show me a collection of information she had recently received not a week ago.
The packet of information she had received was a collection of contacts for various community groups, organizations and so on. The list was quite comprehensive, and included but was certainly not limited to organizations such as ACCM, REZO, the Interligne line and other groups who are great resources for LTBGQ+ or questioning persons. In light of my previous experiences with the CLSC and their available if dated information they had when i last visited, this was a breath of fresh air.
It should also be noted, that the various tests for STI’s these days are not as invasive as they have been in the past. Straightforward urine samples now replace the less than comfortable cue-tip. As well with new techniques that are more comfortable, accuracy of testing procedures has increased. All of this leads to an easier and perhaps more inviting way to get fully tested for all STI’s.
If you turn up HIV negative, but happen to have another type of STI, the medications are free and provided by the CLSC as long as you have a Medicare card. In addition to being free, typically it’s an easy process where you take either one or two pills or several over a few days. That’s it, that’s all. This approach greatly helps with the problem of people who forget to take pills over a long period of time or who get tired and do not complete the dose allotment of medication they were given. If you don’t have a Medicare card i was informed that the approximate cost for some medications can be as much as fifty or more dollars, yet others like penicillin that have been around for a long time are substantially less costly.
In conclusion, I think it’s best said that the experience of going to a CLSC to get tested for HIV and other STI’s can be something that varies in terms of experience depending on which CLSC you choose. In the same breath, while your mileage may vary, the nurses i have met in my occasions visiting my local CLSC have been very helpful and courteous.