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17 January 2008

my first HIV test

man, that's a strange thing to write. yesterday i took my first official HIV test. the egyptian government requires an in-country blood test for a work visa. funny enough, when i was working in turkmenistan many moons ago, they required one too, but my driver took my passport, $20, and an hour later, i received a document certifying i was HIV- . ah, corruption.

(jules, don't read any further than this, you won't like it, let's just deal with it the day you have to go).

so, i took the 1+ hour drive into cairo to the clinic where i was going to get my HIV test. i slept most of the way out since it is mostly desert roads until you get into the gridlock of downtown cairo. once we got there, we asked a few direction to the reception, paid my $6, and was given a receipt. luckily we have an office administrator who goes with us to help with the language barrier and at pushing to the front of the line (since, again, this is a country that has no idea what a queue/line is). we were directed up four flights of stairs to the blood-drawing office. this is where i became a little uneasy. on each flight there were 2-3 blood-stained cotton balls, the kind they give you post-puncture, on the ground. there were trashcans at the bottom of each flight, but the people just tossed this biohazardous cotton balls about as if they were a piece of harmless paper.

at the top of the fourth flight of stairs, we rounded a corner to the blood-giving office. the entire office was MAYBE 10'x10', and it had a glass divider in the middle. just inside the door were about 10 people all crowded around the "receipt" desk to give their receipt and receive their vial. the admin guy went to do the pushing for me, and after about 10 minutes, he got my vial. all this time, i'm watching through the glass partition at people giving blood. it's just a different society, a different culture. there is no privacy, there is no personal space, that's the way they live. i watched out of curiosity but also out of concern. i was watching the nurse intently to make sure she was following guidelines that I'D insist upon. i was surprised that she was. she changed her latex gloves after every patient, she unwrapped sterile needles in front of you, plugged them into sterile plastic syringe bodies, she alcohol swabbed my arm, and after depositing my donation into my vial, she disposed of the needle in a "sharps" box. despite the lack of privacy and the assembly line mentality, i was impressed at their professionalism and protocols. since i'm one of the bigger people in egypt, it took her a bit longer to locate a vein in my arm, but she was following an adaptation of the adage, "measure twice, cut once". once she was sure she found one, she went for it, and like that, i was done. no poking, no prodding, no pain. she was GOOD!

after that, i had lunch, and talked with the admin as to the purpose of the HIV test. i asked that, hypothetically, if i had HIV, would they not let me work here. he said they wouldn't. i was surprised. i asked what HIV+ people were supposed to do to earn a living then, if they won't be employed, and if i understood him correctly, he said they are segregated from society. i'm hoping, but not optimistic, that they don't do such things, and also that they don't think they "have it contained", per se. ignorance to such things can cause more damage than the disease itself, but that's not the point of this post. after lunch, we ran a few errands and we back at work just before quitting time.

i have no reason to worry that i have HIV, no blood transfusions, major/minor surgeries, no illicit drug use or needle-sharing, no risky sexual practices (aside from the kama sutra, HAH!), but still... it's strange to wait. every once in a while, i'm anxious about it. what if i got a false positive? i'd prolly shite myself. then i'd want a re-test, i'd micro-analyze every situation i'd every been in, then i'd get paranoid, and start freaking. all over a blood test that i have nothing to worry about.

so, here's to getting a '-'.

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Blogger Rich | Championable said...

The first time I got an HIV test, I had DAMN good reason to worry. After that one was negative, I took many... almost all of which were because I was going with a friend who was afraid to get one.

That was a really interesting post, dude.

Good thoughts to you.

7:07 PM, January 17, 2008  
Blogger themom said...

amazing...question was that a qwe-we (queue)???

9:02 PM, January 17, 2008  
Blogger Jules said...

You thought I'd stop reading?? Come on! Anyway, it sounds horrible, I'm probably going to faint and a whole bunch of Egyptians are going to freak out...Or maybe (just maybe) the hustled efficiency will make my sub-conscious think there's no time for fainting...We'll see.

6:36 PM, January 19, 2008  

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