Tested for HIV Firsthand experience of getting an HIV test
KATHMANDU, Nov 30: On a Friday morning, I walked into the National Public Health Laboratory to collect my test results knowing that there were possibilities, however bleak, that my life, from then on could drastically change forever. I have no history of drug abuse, blood transfusions, and unsafe sexual practices or even suspicious happenings because of which I was confident that I could, in no way, be HIV positive.
I only took the blood test for the experience. And yet, the whole experience felt so real for me that it almost messed me up in my head. At first, the idea of taking the blood test was fine. But a minute later, it hit me. Involuntarily, although some part of me knew that I was just being absurd, I began to think of what ifs.
What if I mistakenly pricked myself with a needle that was lying around somewhere and a HIV-infected person had also pricked himself with the same needle before I did? Such thoughts started to circle my head and made me nervous.
The morning that I was supposed to take the test, I reached Teku and began to look for the laboratory. After much asking, I located the place and walked the stretch that leads to its pathology lab.
When I entered the room, there were quite a few people and a decent queue waiting for their turn. I was confused. I couldn’t see any sign that instructed me on what to do next. Maybe I was just too nervous or maybe such a board of instructions didn’t exist in the first place. So I walked up to the counter and asked the man. He pointed to a corner and asked me to get my coupon and stay in the queue.
I got myself a coupon from the machine. I was number 98 for the day. After I registered and paid Rs 100 for the test, I went to stand in the other queue of people giving their blood samples. I was perhaps the youngest looking female. I clutched on my paper on which my name, my age and the name of my test was written and then carried carefully for the rest of the time in a way that it didn’t show the name of the test ‘HIV ELISA’ but also in a way which didn’t obviously hide it. I didn’t want people to judge me. They would obviously see the words HIV but wouldn’t know the story behind why I was there that day in that line.
When my turn came, I got more nervous. I sat down on the chair, removed my jacket and folded the sleeve of my left arm.
The thin man, who was probably a medical student doing some internship or something, looked at my recommendation paper and then after mentally noting the test I was up for, asked me to turn my hand into a fist, and for the next eight seconds, he searched for a point on my arm to draw blood. My heart was racing. Although I have been vaccinated and have appeared for blood tests several times, the thought of the needle going under my skin is always terrifying, no matter how subtle the pain in the process is. On top of that, I was taking an HIV test!
The officer couldn’t find the spot that he was looking for and then he asked to try it out on my right arm. This made me more nervous. I rolled up the sleeve and offered him my right arm as he did his whole ‘finding the vein’ drill again. After three seconds of him pressing his index finger into my arm, and still not finding it, I felt like I couldn’t do it. I had this huge urge to say, STOP and grab my jacket and run away. But I didn’t.
Then someone else was called up and then he immediately, with his bare hands, put the syringe into my skin, like a pro and drew three milliliters of blood. I collected my jacket and walked out of the lab.
That was like any other blood test, and yet it was the scariest of all the ones that I have had.