When was the last time you got an HIV test? Last week? Last month? Couple of years ago? Never!? According to the YouthAIDS website, a person aged 15-24 contracts HIV every 15 seconds worldwide. In the United States, at least half of the new detected infections are among people who are under 25 years old.
So last week I decided to take the test and let me tell you, it was the longest 30 minutes of my life. Growing up with an uncle who had contracted HIV at a young age, and later was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS, I got a first-hand look at the life of a person infected with such a devastating disease. One too many times I saw my uncle lay on a hospital bed.
Despite all the information that was at the tips of my fingers, I had postponed this test for a very long time. I was truly scared. To my surprise, I was not alone. When I went around asking close friends, and a few Daily Forty-Niner staff members, the majority said that they had postponed it as well, or were too scared to find out.
I finally got over my fear of receiving bad news and made an appointment for an HIV test at the Student Health Center.
The first thing that you do when you take an HIV test, which is offered for free here on your own campus, is fill out a questionnaire about your sexual past and present. The questions range from whether or not you’ve had sex for money to when the last time was that you shared needles for drug use; you know, the regular questions. Then they proceed to swab your gums.
Afterward, you are taken to a room where a counselor will talk to you about the consequences of HIV and the likelihood of contracting the disease. We are very lucky to have professional HIV counselors here at Cal State Long Beach. They make you feel as comfortable as possible, despite the fact that you are picturing yourself in a hospital bed with a bunch of tubes connected to your arms and chest.
After what will seem like the longest 20-minute wait of your life, the counselor gets up and brings back the results. I’m happy to say that I passed the test!
Most of us were very young when this disease first made headlines in the early ’80s and ’90s. Some of you may have not even been born. Because the majority of us didn’t get to see people die every other week from this disease, we just think that it will not happen to us. Unless we personally know someone who is suffering because of it, we just pretend it doesn’t exist.
Though the information is much greater now than back in the day, we still fail to take that small step and get tested. I urge you all to take that step and get tested for HIV. Do it for the person you love. Most importantly, do it for yourself. Or whatever.
– Julio Salgado