Rapid test and anxiety, no need to post this
Jul 25, 2008
Dear Dr. Bob.
For the past year our anonymous testing site has offered a Point Of Care (rapid) test.
Recently, we have noticed an increase in the number of repeat clients who want yet another test just to set their minds at ease. The closest comparison I can think of is someone who has quit smoking for a few days and just needs "one more cigarette, that's all, just one more, then I'll be fine, honest."
Dealing with the worried well is nothing new, and our own intake policies can handle it, but we've noticed clients who previously were quite calm and matter of fact about regular testing now look to this as a quick, if temporary, fix. I wondered if you'd heard similar stories from other sites offering a rapid test (there aren't that many Canadian ones that have it, so I'm looking south for information): that knowing one's results so soon can almost work against the education component of the testing session.
Response from Dr. Frascino
Yes, other sites have noticed similar phenomena. Actually, ever since testing became available, there has been a number of "worried wells" who test excessively, primarily due to guilt and/or irrational fears. The number of these individuals may have increased somewhat in response to the ease and instant gratification of getting a rapid test result back within 20 minutes. However, other factors have also come into play. Effective HIV counseling at the time of HIV testing has decreased (at least here in the U.S.). There has also been a marked decrease in funding for HIV-education programs under the disastrous "Reign of Error" of the Boy-King "W." Add to this the abolition of science-based, age-appropriate sex education mandated by the disastrous Bush abstinence-only sex education programs in our schools and you wind up with many sexually active young adults freaked out about HIV and sex in general. This too leads to unwarranted testing. Many sexually active young adults have inadequate or frankly false information about STD prevention and safer sexual practices.
Ted, the best way to cope with the frequent testers is education. Facts and science eventually conquer fear and ignorance. (That's why Obama is conquering Bush, McCain and the entire GOP.) To supplement the prevention education your test site offers, consider referring your anxiety-ridden repeat testers to The Body's Web site. This can be another effective resource in helping them to gain a better perspective on their actual HIV risk and their irrational testing excesses.
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