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I am HIV negative. To be able to say that, with great understanding and confidence, is worth paying for.
But you don’t have to. It’s free, right here on campus every week. I just got tested last Monday.
My roommate and I had been planning to meet between our classes to come to Community Health at the UMC. There were signs set out that directed us right to their room, UMC 411, upstairs.
They hold walk-in hours for free, anonymous and confidential HIV testing from 5:30 to 7:10 p.m. every Monday and Tuesday night.
I was relieved when I first walked in. I wasn’t sure what to expect; this was my first time getting tested for HIV, but I immediately found the office and the staff who were working to be surprisingly warm and inviting.
They welcomed us in right away and there were lots of comfortable spots on the couches to sit. Pamphlets of information for just about everything were strewn all over the room. There were enough for you to take as many as you needed, but before I could pick any of them up, our names were called.
Within minutes, the both of us were on our way to get tested for HIV.
Each of us was taken into our own separate room with closed doors. I liked the feeling that there was real privacy between the clinician and I. At the same time, I noted that the room also felt spacious enough that I didn’t feel crowded or smothered. They even had a relaxation sound machine for extra measure. So really, it felt like there was just you, the clinician and the birds.
There were cute little baskets of condoms and lube as well as a plastic penis by the condoms in case I needed a proper safety demonstration. With sex and sexual safety being rather taboo in general conversation, it was good to know that there are free and accessible resources available so that we can find out how to do these things correctly—aside from YouTube that is.
With a quick prick of the finger, the test was already underway. In the 10 minutes that it took to process, I was able to have a rather helpful and informative conversation with my clinician.
At first she asked me very routine-sounding questions, which then lead into more awkward personal questions. However she did assure me that I didn’t have to answer them at all if I didn’t want to. It felt good to know that this conversation would only go as far as I was comfortable.
I asked her how often people came in to get tested. She said that quite a few people come in every week and that they are usually pretty busy. The HIV testing facilities at the UMC were a really helpful resource, and I was glad to hear that people at this school were using them.
Before I knew it, the test was done. My results were negative. And that is a great thing to know about myself.
As I stepped out of their office, my roommate was waiting for me. She smiled and said she tested negative as well.
Frankly, I wasn’t that worried, but I did feel that it was important for me to get this test.
When we first sat down in the room, they handed us papers fully detailing the testing process, including issues about how the results may be difficult to handle and ways they can help in case we didn’t get the results we hoped for.
While I wasn’t terribly concerned, I knew that for others, this whole process could be extremely emotional and terrifying.
In writing this, I want to take a minute to address readers who might consider getting tested.
I got the impression that the people working at Community Health really are there to help us. They cover all health issues between cold care, body image, nutrition, stress management and of course sexual health—things I didn’t know people were there to help me with.
While getting tested for something as significant as HIV could be uncomfortable and upsetting, I really did feel that the staff and volunteers who work at Community Health were committed to make something this frightening as comfortable as possible.
The information they hand you before, during and after the test is clear and easy to understand. They gauge and address your level of comfort in each step of the process and are well trained to answer any and all of your questions with the utmost support. At any moment that I might have gotten upset, I knew beforehand that they had measures to address that as well.
There are several resources in this town to assess your sexual health. If you don’t know where to begin, especially with issues such as testing for HIV, Community Health can be a good place to start.
If you would like to know more about this service, visit their Web site or visit them yourself at UMC 411.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Natalie Bui at Natalie.firstname.lastname@example.org.