Step number one: Go to this place. This is our local health center. We offer HIV testing and counseling and family planning services. And they let me do all those things. Just follow the signs.
If you are not pregnant then you get to sit outside for hours and hours and wait at the out patient center to get your test done.
If you are pregnant you get to wait inside the maternity ward in the same room where women are in labor. All pregnant women who come for prenatal visits are tested. This is to prevent mother to child transmission.
This is my lovely midwife friend sitting at the testing table.
These are the supplies:
Most people test with a finger prick. I usually draw blood because the lancets are always running low and I am one of the only people who knows how to draw blood (most of the people working are students). I tend to follow around the head midwife and bother her until she teaches me things. It works well.
These are Determine strips. They are the first in a series of three tests. If this test comes back negative then the person is HIV neg and no further tests have to be done at the time.
Clean the finger with an alcohol wipe. Sometimes we run out of these and clean the finger with cotton. I feel like this probably does not have the same effect...
Prick the finger and then squeeze some blood onto the test strip. I have to say that it is much easier to prick people than I thought it would be. Picking fingers, sticking needles into arms, giving injections it is all surprisingly easy. I thought I would feel bad sticking sharp objects into human skin, but I really dont. Does that say something about me?
Or if you can draw some blood. I really like blood when it is in tubes. I like it way less when it is gushing out of a person. That is just gross.
Take a dropper and put one drop of blood onto the end of the test strip.
Add a drop of buffer to it and wait for the test result.
The top line is the control and if the test is negative then only the top line appears. These tests (for the same person) are both positive. I redid the test just to make sure.
This is the second test in the series, called Stat Pack. This test ended up being negative. This means we have to go to the third test, Uni-gold, to get the final result. Basically whatever the uni-gold result is is the final result.
But of course the hospital was out of Uni-gold. First I made this woman wait like 30 minutes for her results while I did her tests multiple times. And then I had to tell her to come back tomorrow, she may or may not have HIV. I guess its not really worse news than she had before. Except it really is. Its nerve wracking. The whole process feels very unfinished to me even when we have the third test. Like some lines appeared on a strip of paper and now I can tell you that you are HIV positive? Seems likes machines should be involved. Can anything really be accurate without a machine involved anyway? I suppose so.
I almost always get a negative result and get to tell people good news. We only get a few people who test positive each month. So testing is generally a really positive experience. I have learned how to communicate the good news even if I dont speak the language of the woman I am testing (which happens sometimes). I look quizzically at the strip for a couple seconds and then up at the woman and give her a big smile and a thumbs up. She looks relieved and I move onto the next person.
I have more stories to tell about testing but my hands hurt from doing laundry this morning. No more typing. Can't go on.