Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Music, food, and an HIV-test

Today, in honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness & Information Day, I got tested.

Blacks only count for about 13 percent of the total population, but in 2005 blacks accounted for nearly half of the new HIV and AIDS cases in the nation--more than any other ethnic group. About 15,000 people in Louisiana are infected with the disease and 10,036 are black. That's 67 percent of the total AIDS population in the state.

The Brotherhood Task Force of Northwest Louisiana offered free testing at their site on Hope Street. I decided to go so I could blog about my experience, but I didn't know I'd be so frightened to take a simple test.

My fellow blogger Janelle and my co-worker Vanessa went with me for moral support. They too, decided to get tested. Vanessa seemed to be at ease about taking the stigmatized test but Janelle and I were terrified.

We assumed we didn't have HIV or AIDS, but the reality is that you can never be sure until you're tested.

I'm careful. I use protection. I'm very, very selective. But it isn't always about what you're doing, sometimes its about what other people are doing and what those people are doing too. The bottom line is this: you never know until you KNOW.

When we got to 838 Hope Street for our test (the group plans to conduct free testing every Wednesday from Noon to Midnight until 2008) we were nervous and ready to get the results. There was music playing in the background and Cedric Murphy, co-founder of the task force, was playful and very helpful.

I was the first to be tested. Vanessa was next and then Janelle.
We had to swab a stick over our gums and wait 20 minutes to get results. If one, pink line showed up on the test, we were negative for HIV.
Here's my test below. Vanessa took the picture just after I'd swabbed my mouth with the stick.

My anxiety went away after we took the test. While we waited, Murphy and others talked to us. We sang the songs we knew when they were played and he even offered us chili dogs and gave us the choice between lemonade and sweet tea. We even got cake for desert.

I looked around the room. There were several posters about HIV Awareness and condoms. A bowl of condoms was on a counter for the taking. We all got some. There's the picture of the bowl to the right.

Murphy even showed us a few tricks while we waited. He showed us how to insert a female condom and how to "cheek a condom." Cheeking a condom involved placing an unused condom in your cheek and inserting while performing oral sex. It's a trick because the male won't know you've put on a condom and it protects from spreading disease.

We talked to another lady who was tested. We even talked to other members of the media who showed up to report the goings on at the site.

Just when we seemed to be having fun, Victor Jackson, co-founder of the task force, called me back to see my results. I was relieved when I saw the pink line. Vanessa and Janelle had pink lines too.


Great music, good food, and a negative HIV test.

You can't beat that with a stick.


Diane Haag said...

Good for you! And I'm even more impressed that you're willing to write about it. Of course, I'm very happy it all went well.

Heidi Hausmann said...

I'm glad the three of you did that and I'm glad you wrote about it. Hopefully lots of people will take advantage of this great opportunity!

Ashley Northington said...

Thanks ya'll! I really appreciate that. I hope others take advantage of the opportunity too.

G$ said...

Been with the same WONDERFUL woman (she might be reading) for 16 years. Works marvelously well when wondering about viruses and diseases...all the same...good for you.

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