7 January 2013

Uganda: Women Shares First HIV Test Experience

When Carol Kasujja's boyfriend asked that they go take an HIV test, her heart almost stopped. She did not want to go. She was afraid of what she would find and what it would mean to their relationship. She shares her story.

Recently, I had a miracle happen in my life. I am in a new relationship. My boyfriend suggested that we get tested so that we are sure of our status. I was not comfortable with the idea, but I did not want to raise any suspicion by hesitating. We agreed to go to Nyango Clinic.

That morning; I awoke at 5:00am and prayed to God to be with me during the testing. When I got the call reminding me about the test, I panicked, breathing fast. I was afraid of what would happen should the results turn out positive. It felt like my life was about to end.

For some reason, there was not a moment I thought the results would be negative. Just the thought of it got my heart pounding so fast I could hear it in my ears. On our way to the clinic, as we sat in the taxi, I started thinking about all my ex-boyfriends.

I studied my skin to see any signs of HIV/ AIDS. When I turned to look at my boyfriend, he was very calm. I wondered what would become of us if it turned out that I was HIVpositive.

Just the thought of it almost drew a tear. He asked me whether I was fine because I was really quiet. He had no idea that I was regretting why I ever dated him. I could not imagine myself single again if my boyfriend found out that I was HIVpositive.

I wished for the traffic jam to delay our arrival at the clinic until the doctor had left. Unfortunately, it seemed like the shortest journey I had ever made. At the clinic, the skinny doctor looked relaxed. He showed no signs of having any other appointment. I am always quite the talker, but on that day, the HIV test had me well subdued.

When the doctor welcomed us into his office for counselling, I felt my heart jumping out of my chest. I was scared to death. He asked us so many questions about HIV; whether it was the first time we were taking the test. My boyfriend replied that he had done one four months back. I said I had also done one 12 months earlier. Of course that was a lie; it was the first time in all my life on this earth that I was taking the test.

As the doctor continued to counsel us, I calmed down. He told us that if we discovered that we were HIV-positive, we would not be the only ones living with the virus. The doctor explained that we could still have a full life by keeping fit, eating healthy and taking our medication.He also told us about ARVS and their benefits. He assured us that one can live for more than 20 years when taking them.

The testing

It was time for the HIV test. My boyfriend wished me well and kissed me on the forehead. I saw the HIV test apparatus and thought to myself: 'God why did you bring this boy into my life?'

The doctor was talking to me, but my mind was somewhere else. I started thinking of the life I lived as a student at the university. I almost called one of my ex-boyfriends to find out whether he had ever done an HIV test.

The tiny 8-10cm object in front of me was going to bring me either the best or worst news. In my heart, I continued to pray that I am spared from the AIDS virus. I wished I were once again a newborn baby with nothing to worry about.

Finally, the doctor took my blood. We had to wait for 45 minutes to get the results. When it was time up, the doctor called us to his office one at a time. I went in second.

When his door opened and he signalled me in, I felt like I was going to be killed in his office. All of a sudden, my head felt light, my eyes watery. I wanted to cry.

The doctor, probably sensing what was going on, ushered me to a seat and smiled.

He asked me: "Carol, why are you scared?" He then handed me a sheet of paper containing my results andsaid: "Congratulations you are HIV-negative."

I almost jumped. The relief came with tears that I freely let flow. I have never felt happier than I felt that day. I walked straight to my boyfriend and gave him the results. He showed me his. He too was HIV-negative. We hugged and smiled at each other.

On our way back, I confessed how afraid I had been. He told me that he had seen me panicking, but he did not want to tell me. I definitely urge people to go and get tested. There is a sense of relief in knowing your status, whatever it may be.

Armed with knowledge, you are then in a position to take the next step in caring for your health and that of others. I am going back after six months. I am now ready for a baby and marriage.

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