Monday, August 19

Confronting fears at the Men’s Clinic


Confronting fears at the Men’s Clinic

Flat-Earth Society

Robert Stevens

Okay, I’ll admit it ­ I’ve taken an HIV test. This isn’t to
say that I’m HIV-infected. In fact, the closest thing I have to HIV
is HBO, and that’s back at home.

That’s right, I’m currently clear of all sexually transmitted
diseases and premium cable channels.

But I didn’t find this out until yesterday, when I got my
results back.

It’s a scary thing waiting to see if you have the HIV virus, the
pre-cursor to AIDS.

It’s especially scary when you’re like me ­ the kind of guy
who could convince himself he had a vaginal yeast infection if the
thought was tossed around enough.

It’s a weird thing, though. Sitting in a sterile hospital
waiting for a doctor to let you know if you’re going to be around
for the next Star Wars trilogy may be tough, but at least I
understand the concept of it.

That is to say, my teenage immortality has been worn down by the
names Eazy-E and Magic Johnson, red ribbons at the Oscars, Bio 40
and ABC After School Specials.

What I was thoroughly unprepared for, however, was actually
taking the damn test.

This isn’t the kind of test where you can just use your
handy-dandy legacy key and steal the answers.

The test can be embarrassing, involves life or death, some
combination of sex or drugs, and in general, is not something you
tell people about in, say ­ a school-wide publication.

After suffering the stress of having to mention out loud to the
nurse that I wanted one of those kinds of tests, I was forced to
sit and wait in a very public waiting room.

I wanted them to give me a sign, "This man is not here for an
HIV test! He is here to check on an acute case of Cooties."

At least American society has evolved to a fine enough point
that the Cooties no longer carries much of a stigma.

But getting an HIV test does. So much so that the Student Health
receipt you get back never even says what you paid for.

Now, while testing for HIV involves getting a simple blood test,
I decide to check for the whole shebang.

Getting called into the doctor’s office for an overall men’s
check-up was yet another nerve-wracking experience.

After a little discussion involving intricate details of my life
I normally wouldn’t tell the Gestapo if they had a bazooka to my
grandma’s head, the doctor motioned to examining table.

"Sit up there and take off your pants," the doctor said.

"You mean underwear, too?" I asked.

He laughed. I wasn’t joking.

Suddenly things went from uncomfortable to surreal.

Sitting there awkwardly, blatantly displaying my personal
package, I began to realize the bizarre nature of the entire
experience as the doctor began making small talk.

"So, how were your finals …?" his voice fell into a drone.

The whole thing seemed so strange to me …

"So, what’s your major?"

… the side of me that regulates my image, the side that

"So, where are you livin’ next year?"

… the side that shops at the Gap and watches MTV to say I
watch MTV didn’t …

"So, wanna see my fish tank?"

… didn’t want to be there. Much to the chagrin of my
responsible side, the image-conscious side wanted to get the hell
out of there.

But I persisted.

After 19 years of small talk, I knew instantly what he was
doing.

The doctor in all his infinite wisdom, in all his years of
service, was trying to get me to forget that there was a random
gloved hand roaming my genital area.

Unfortunately, that was something I couldn’t ignore.

As the doctor checked for various "bumps and bruises," my mind
exploded in a flash of fright.

No, at this point I was not afraid that I had anything
disease-wise. In the bottom of my stomach gurgled the greatest fear
any heterosexual man can ever have.

What if I got an erection?

Quickly I thought of unarousing thoughts ­ starving
children, mutilated cats, crack-babies.

It worked.

None of my fears were realized. There were no surprises and I
was given a clean bill of health.

I furtively rushed off to take my HIV blood test and go back to
my warm and secure little life out on the other side of campus.

Maybe I’m just paranoid. Maybe letting people know really isn’t
that big of a deal. Maybe it isn’t quite as detrimental to the
reputation as I thought. And maybe if I’d ever openly talked to
anyone about it, I’d know for sure.

Headline news stories about AIDS may be politically correct, but
actually getting tested won’t be for a while.

But I decided, the sooner the better.

Hell, you gotta know how excited to get for the next Star Wars
movie.

Stevens is a second-year political science student. He doesn’t
show his parents his columns. They run every other Tuesday.

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