YOUTH BLOG: Rethabile, Taking the HIV Test
I can never forget the fear and anxiety I experienced when I first went for an HIV test. All I could think of while sitting in the counselling room were some of the bad choices I have made. There had been a campaign in my community about testing for HIV earlier in the week, and so I had made the bold decision that I should know my status.
The counsellor chatted to me about HIV – the difference between HIV and AIDS, modes of transmission and prevention. She guided me through a risk assessment in order to indicate if I could have been exposed to HIV through any of the transmission modes we had discussed.
The counsellor then pricked my finger, a small scratch, and drew a little bit of blood. She then put a drop of blood onto a testing strip, added some solution and informed me that the test strip would run for 15 minutes before we could get the results.
Those were the longest 15 minutes of my life.
I kept asking myself whether I would have made the same choices had I been informed about risky behaviours. I felt cheated that no one had given me correct information about the myths and misconceptions around HIV. The counsellor talked me through how I would be referred to the nearest health facility within five days if I was positive, and what steps I could take if I was negative – no matter what the outcome, we talked about ensuring I maintained a healthy lifestyle going forward. All I could do as I waited was pray.
No one can imagine the joy and gratitude I felt when my test revealed that I was HIV negative. From that day I wanted to be a source of positive change in my community, especially amongst my peers. That’s why I jumped to an opportunity of being a Sentebale peer educator. Now I am able to arm my peers with correct information about HIV, and help them not to be fearful about getting tested.