Here, I share with you my own personal experience when my wife and I had to take the HIV test three years ago.
The Pastor made it very clear to us that, as a prerequisite, we had to go for a HIV test before we got married. The results of the test would determine whether the church would marry us off or not. If either of us tested HIV positive, then, that would mean the end of the journey to conjugal bliss.
That was three weeks to the publishing of the banns. Never had there been a harder time in our lives than at that very time. The task that we had to accomplish was almost daunting.
Our minds were abuzz trying to figure out our pasts: had we slipped in our earlier trysts? And if so, had we contracted the HIV virus? What would happen if the tests confirmed our worst fears?
After lengthy deliberations, we decided that taking the test was the only way of either confirming or allaying our fears.
The next day we headed to a Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) centre that was in town. We were received cordially, and, after the preliminaries, we were ushered into a room where a counsellor was waiting for us.
I’ll never forget the cold chill that ran down my spine when I entered the room. I felt like a cow that had entered an abattoir. My face was flushed and my lips felt dry. I tried to compose myself to no avail. The feeling I had could only be equated to the feeling of an accused man feeling guilty before being pronounced so.
With a warm smile, the counsellor led us through the counselling session which included questions posed at us and explanations she gave for the questions we asked her.
Then came the question: “Are you ready for the test?” My wife-to-be and I exchanged glances and, almost in unison, we said, “Yes.”
We were led to a room that was adjacent to the office. This was the ‘testing room’. Blood was removed from the big veins in the crooks of our arms. Then we were told to wait in reception while the tests were made and results processed.
The fifteen minutes in reception were an eternity to me. There were a number of magazines on the table. I took one of them in the pretext of reading but in real sense it was to camouflage the fact that my mind was in turmoil. All manner of wild ideas and thoughts were doing their rounds in my head.
“What if I am found to be HIV positive, what will become of my life? What will come of my wedding bid? What will people say and how will my parents take it?” My head was spinning. My mate was going through the same motions.
When our names were mentioned we jumped up in unison almost leaving our hearts on the seats! The counsellor, with two spring files in her hands, led the way into her office. We followed suit, our steps almost faltering.
Once inside the office, she asked us to be seated. With a disarming smile playing on her lips, she told us that she had the results. Our hearts missed a beat.
With the precision of a marksman, she opened the two files and looked into them. At the back of our minds we knew that the contents of the files held the key to our fate.
She looked at us and, as she was about to say something, she stopped and cleared her throat. Was that hesitation? We felt the air in our lungs being forced out.
“Both of you are HIV negative. You don’t have the HIV virus. Here, have a look at the results.”
For a split second we could not believe our ears. Then we stood up, with tears of joy coursing the breadth of our cheeks, hugged each other and thanked the counsellor profusely.
As she handed us our result certificates (the key to our marital bliss and ‘happily-ever-after’ story), she quipped, “These results are very different from the ones that show academic qualifications. You can depend on your academic certificates to open doors for you tomorrow i.e. the qualifications don’t change. The certificates show the skills you have acquired. The results you have received today, on the other hand, can change at the flash of lightning if you don’t take care of yourselves.”
Read this poem that encapsulates the advice of a grandmother to her carefree grandson who does not care two hoots about Aids.
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