“Why are you having an HIV test today?” the beefy one asked me with a smile on his face. He asked me in the same way you might ask a friend why he had chosen to eat corn beef on rye instead of on regular bread. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat and said “well me and my girlfriend would like to have sex without using a condom.”
They needed to know how long it had been since I had last had unprotected sex in order to know what test they should give me. They informed me what the process would be and then, mercifully, let me go. I left the room and sat back down next to my significant other on one of the slowly disintegrating couches that lined the waiting room. She held my hand and whispered “I told them to go easy on you” as she gave me a peck on the cheek.
“Yeah cheers love”.
It wasn’t fair that she was so calm, cool and collected while I was tearing out the few hairs I have left. The stupid thing about all this is that I was only really there because she made me come. And while she sat there with all the nonchalance of someone sitting in line at the post office I was shaking with fear. And I KNEW I had nothing to worry about.
Or did I?
Now if you measure a relationship in terms of the amount of time you’ve been going out with someone, then a month isn’t that long. But something weird has happened to me over that time. My fridge, the place that used to be a bastion of minimalist beauty is now filled with food…most of it edible; there’s a toothbrush on my bathroom sink that most definitely isn’t mine and I find the occasional long, black hair in my bed which my balding cranium couldn’t even pretend to take responsibility for.
Things seem to be changing in the Goldberg household and sitting there in that clinic it seemed (before I went in) that we were taking the next logical step. How on earth I ended up there on Tu B’Av though I don’t know.
“It IS romantic!” she suddenly insisted.
“HOW THE BLOODY HELL IS THIS ROMANTIC?”
I blurted it out too quickly to stop. When her eyes opened wide I looked around and realized everyone was staring at me. I had raised my voice above the extremely quiet murmur of all of the other people there who were also waiting to find out if a few seconds (c’mon be honest) of fun had condemned them to a lifetime of something else entirely.
If you thought the library noise policy was bad…
So, according to her, by taking a test for HIV together we were raising the bar on our relationship. Now we wouldn’t have even a wetsuit’s degree of separation between us. We wouldn’t be having sex anymore we’d be “making love.” I had to admit that there may well be something to that interpretation. Or more correctly I had to admit it sulkily to myself.
Her turn came to enter the room and give of her life’s blood while I sat there listening to the music that was playing through hidden speakers and looking at the other people all sitting there trying not to look at one another. There was a soldier, another couple and two guys sitting far apart from one another.
She came out of the room momentarily and it was my turn, I walked in and sat down. The guy in there took my blood and I walked out. After a 40 minute wait we were both given an all-clear for unprotected sex up to 3 months ago with a promise that they’d call if the second test they do that checks up until 2 months ago turned up something positive.
We were out of there, she was typically cool, I was jumping for joy as if I was a death row inmate granted a stay of execution. The truth is that all I had really done was live up to my responsibilities as a sexually active person in the 21st century.
She still claimed that it was romantic. The next stage in our relationship is clearly me learning not to argue.
The uncomfortable truth is that this test is just something that we all have to do from time to time. Clearly not enough people realize this. The number of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is rising in Israel. This is a fact.
The Israeli health ministry announced that the number of people infected with HIV rose by 8% in 2012, making testing something that many of us should be doing. It’s embarrassing to go in there and very worrying, but that doesn’t make it any less important. There are many places in Israel that provide free testing and others that provide completely anonymous testing services for a small fee. If you need to go, go!