37 Thoughts I Had After Receiving (False) Positive HIV Test Results
To my surprise, it turns out that my doctor doesn’t consider HIV an STD. So that sweet relief I felt when she said my organ function was great and that I’m STD free? Yeah, it didn’t cover the fact that she was about to tell me that she believed I was in the early stages of an HIV infection. Here are 36 thoughts that raced through my brain after I received what turned out to be false positive HIV test results…
1. This doctor is a fucking bitch. There is no other word for it. Who delivers this news over the phone, on a Friday afternoon, offering no resources, and then says not to worry, but to use condoms until I can see the infectious disease specialist she’s referring me too (but at no particular time mind you)?! She doesn’t say the name of the test, doesn’t explain it for those of us who may be Ivy-educated, but still never took anything beyond Bio 101 in college.
2. I need to leave to leave my office. NOW.
3. I can’t believe about I’m about to tell my new, lovely, pregnant coworker that I may be HIV positive. She’s just the first person I see and I have to talk to someone.
4. I’m surprisingly not embarrassed by the admission. HIV doesn’t discriminate. I’m grateful when she doesn’t ask specifics and just hugs me.
5. Mostly, I’m confused. I tell my coworker how it doesn’t make sense. That I’m beyond careful. That I get tested every six months to a year. An amazing decision in the end, as she gives me contact information for our department of health and tells me I can talk to a counselor friend of hers.
6. My doctor may be useless, but I am not. It may be a Friday afternoon, but there is SOMETHING I can do about this.
7. I have friends that are MDs! They can explain this test. They can tell me what comes next. They won’t judge me.
8. More confusion—my doctor friends hold me and tell me they don’t understand what test it was. They haven’t heard of it.
9. Woof. My friends now know the nitty-gritty details of my sex life.
10. Relief—I don’t have to spend the weekend alone. We leave to get a bag of my stuff and my trusty Zoloft prescription I left at home. Too bad my horrid doctor couldn’t at least give me a Valium (or 10) for the weekend. I don’t know how to make it through the next 60 seconds, let alone the next two days.
11. I call the HIV counselor and she tells me that pregnant women often give false positives. Please let me pregnant! But it’s so unlikely. I tell her, frankly, that it’s more likely that I have HIV…
12. This is the hardest day of my life. I’m grateful for that—I haven’t lost someone very close to me, no serious illness in those I’ve loved, no tragic events, etc.
13. The anxiety and nausea kind of feel like the worst breakup ever. But even with heartbreak you know there are other fish in the sea. I can’t get new blood.
14. I’m not worried about my health so much. You have to die of something, and as my lovely MD friend told me, HIV-positive individuals now have a greater life expectancy than those with diabetes. I will have to pay more attention, but I don’t feel like this is a death sentence.
15. Fuck, I don’t have the kind of money to deal with this. I have amazing insurance, but I work in education. I will have this for the rest of my life. What if I lose my job?
16. Who is going to want to be with a woman who’s HIV positive? I could look like Gisele, have the comic timing of Kristen Wiig, and 98 percent of people still wouldn’t want to be with me out of fear.
17. Speaking of men, how did I get this!? I have had unprotected sex with one person, in a long-term, exclusive relationship.
18. He may have been an emotional moron, but he would never knowingly expose me to anything. He would also never have cheated. Right?
19. Holy crap. What if I gave it to him? Shit, did I give it to the guy I’m dating now, even if we’ve used protection?
20. This still doesn’t make sense. I got tested one year ago. I had been with that long-term partner for six months at the time, and I tested negative.
21. I’ve never even shot heroin. This is so messed up.
22. I understand that I can be that tiny percentage of people who just contract it, despite taking all precautions. If I’m that person, I cannot blame myself.
23. I know I can still have kids without the HIV being passed along to them with almost certainty, but could I do that to kids? What if I DID die young? I don’t want my kids to grow up without a mother.
24. Confidence in my next step: I’m going to the local AIDS clinic. I’m getting retested. This can’t be right.
25. I’m so grateful to have my doctor friend back here in the room with me. If I’m going to take a test and get a medical diagnosis, I’m going to make sure she knows what it is and that I understand it.
26. I’m going to be sick. I make us all leave the room while the test runs. The counselor’s eyes keep glancing back at the test, and I keep trying to read her reaction.
27. Uh oh. That sandwich I got at Panera is not going to stay down…
28. The set up for this test is kind of ridiculous. Why is it that these life-altering tests are set up with the same system—a stick with one line or two. It’s even cotton-like at one end. Surely science has progressed further than this.
29. This is it. If it’s positive, there are specialists in the next room that will explain everything. One even went to my high school. I know his wife. So weird.
30. It’s negative. Oh my god.
31. Wait. Can I trust this test? I’m told it’s meant to be extra sensitive—giving false positives if necessary to catch every possible infection. In 26 years of working there, my counselor is confident in my negative test result.
32. I need to get drunk.
33. I need to see my man-friend. I know I cancelled our date, but now I just need a hug. I need to feel like my life is back to normal.
34. I want to cunt-punt my primary care physician.
35. Aren’t I supposed to feel better? It’s two days later and I still can’t leave my apartment. I’m anxious. I’m angry. I’m sad. I don’t know where my man-friend is. He blew me off.
36. I need to write this down … someone, somewhere, understands all of this. I am not as alone as I feel.