somewhere in 2008 i sent friends and family a short account of a visit to hillbrows’ HIV testing site. to cut it short it was a nightmare, surreal. the counsellor sat me down, asked my age, the number of sexual partners blah blah. he then broke down HIV for me, this is what it is, blah. to tie a bow on it, dude then asked where my family was and if i had any younger siblings who would take care of me when i get too sick to do so. he hadn’t even drawn blood then. what followed was a small confrontation, he shut me up by stating, ‘i wouldn’t be so cocky before my ‘positive’ comes back.’
i took the test and walked down to the johannesburg art gallery. kay hassan eased my anger, his fathers’ music room reminded me of home, the people there who would have to take care of me if the clairvoyant counsellor had had a clearer crystal ball. i’d seen other counsellors before mr doom and gloom, they had been informative and quick to ease my nerves. he was a bad apple, i filed a complaint.
today i tried my local clinic on for size. with ‘kick start’ clinics closed i’ve struggled to find a testing site that’s free and near and last year i missed my december first test. woodstock community health centre sits just on the other side of mountain road. when electricians arrived too early for my husband to open for them, i ran home to open up and leave them with a short ‘to do’ before zipping back up the road to join the freebie queue. after my folder was called i waited a short 45 minutes (govt health care people, catch up) before i was asked to see a counsellor. as i stepped in another gentleman was called.
‘no, we’re not together,’ i offered.
‘yes, that’s fine. just both of you come in.’
i’m in this weird room with a counsellor, a dude i met on the bench outside and i’m about to disclose my sexual history. i’m about to know how many people mr bench has been with. this is all too heady. i sit and giggle awkwardly. i’m thinking of my one night stands, i realize i don’t know as much about any of them as i’m about to find out about this stranger. i giggle some more then ask, ‘but how?’ at which i burst out laughing. the counsellor raises an eye brow, i cross and uncross my legs then clench my butt cheeks, got to stop laffing.
‘how old are you?’
the counsellor is barking at mr bench, who looks at me and i shrug my shoulders. a quiet knock introduces mr bench’s friend, his translator. the man is french. there’s four of us in the room and the translator is hot and about to find out i’m pretty easy and live around the corner. i need a smart phone. for ten minutes i sit listening as questions bounce from the counsellor to the translator and then finally to mr bench. it’s amusing, it’s someone else’s nightmare.
‘have you ever had anal sex?’
‘i’m sorry, i’m going to have to wait outside.’
my shoulders are shaking, my chest is tight. i am clenching an unclenching my fists. i’m biting at my lower lip and i want to punch the daylights out of our counsellor. my knees buckle a bit as i sit at the bench outside the office. i didn’t get mr bench’s name but i know a few things about him that should remain in the safety of ‘doctor patient privilege.’ i sat through it, i laughed about it. yes, i shouldn’t have been put in that position but it’s one thing to need a translator to buy milk and bread and quite another to have a second person know your status before you do. mr bench is just one dude, a home affairs glitch. shame. i’m just a sweet little asshole, who should have used better judgement. when they leave i can’t look either one in the eye, i’m ashamed and can’t wait to half die.
my turn comes and i ask the counsellor why they asked us both to come in.
‘it’s a faster turn around.’
if they prick us, do we not bleed?