Last weekend, our testing team was out at Austin Pride where they tested 65 people! The following Friday, right before they left work for the day, they got this amazing email from a Pride Attendee who got tested! (Note: minor edits have been made for clarity)
I wanted to take a few minutes to write about what a very positive experience I had getting tested at Austin Pride last weekend. Testing is one of those things that I tend to put off, partly because it’s nerve-wracking, partly because for a long period of time I didn’t have insurance, and at times because it just feels like such a judgmental experience. Although I came of age and first became sexually active about the time that people started hearing about HIV/AIDS, I’ve probably been tested less than 10 times in the 30 years since.
This is the first time since I moved to Texas in 1996 that I have taken advantage of testing through ASA. It’s usually been something I’ve requested through my doctor during other tests, etc. In such cases it’s been rather uncomfortable, questions asked, silent but very obvious judgment being passed, etc.
So I was excited when I saw Stephanie at our booth at Pride and she mentioned that ASA was doing testing at Pride. It took me a bit to find your booth (thanks to her mentioning the yellow brick road I finally figured that out) and was happy to stop by. As I sat to fill out the form I found myself a bit worried about being judged with some of the questions: do you always use a condom, how many sexual partners have you had, etc. The first I hesitated answering, the second I honestly couldn’t give an answer to. I started allowing myself to feel guilt and shame and for a moment I considered quietly getting up and leaving. I reminded myself that you had to ask such questions because it allowed for funding and sat quietly until I was called back.
I forget the name of the wonderful young man who took me into the tents to test, but I cannot tell you what an absolutely positive experience I had. As he went down the form and noticed that I hadn’t answered the question about the number of sexual partners he got a coy “I really don’t know” answer from me. 10? 20? He said? No judgment, no “jeez, what kind of woman are you?” in his voice; just a simple assurance that he just needed a number. Maybe 20 I said? As he quietly wrote it down. He continued to go over the forms here. “I see you sometimes use a condom,” he states. Again I start beating myself up—I mean this is ASA I’m ready for a lecture about how I should ALWAYS do so—and I start talking about how I know better. He cuts me off. “Sometimes is better than not at all, that’s good.” And he gives me a bit of education about how to be safer if possible if I choose to have sex without a condom. No judgment, I’m not being looked down on, but I’m also being given information that I should have known for a long time and which really have always been afraid to ask. The test itself was quick, painless, and very reassuring; I told myself whatever the status, it was always best to just know, although I was happy and grateful to be negative still.
Given a list of times that you offer testing for the future, I was thanked for coming by (and here it was ME that was thankful for you being there for me), and I was on my way. It was incredible. I will happily pass the word on to others about what a positive experience it was, and what a long way you went towards removing my anxiety about getting tested.
We are so proud of our testing team, and we know they work hard to make sure every testing experience is a positive one, regardless of the status at the end!