Angela Davey, Olmsted County Social Service Advisory Board, Rochester, Minn.; Diagnosed in 1997
I first started getting tested every year back in 1987. Back then it was requested that you give a name other than your own. Then you called back over two weeks later to get the results. At one point I remember being assigned a number to identify me. The last time I tested it came back positive. That was in '97. I lived in San Francisco and it was through a clinic. By then it was under your real name and the wait was only three days, and I was told by a case manager who gave me resource info along with the results.
There are two big changes in testing since back in the '80s, as far as I can see: First, you weren't protected by disclosure laws the way it is in present days -- you could be fired outright, etc. The fear of AIDS was at its peak, but I'm not convinced the ignorance or at least the stigma of HIV/AIDS is all that better, especially in rural areas. Now the second thing is the time to get results; now with the rapid test, it's just so much quicker.
What I do think is important is the stages one goes through while pondering getting tested -- from denial of needing a test (and anyone who has had unprotected sex or used IV drugs can assume they should get tested) to pure anxiety of the unknown: where to get tested, how to pay for it, who will know, do I want to know, what if ...
Once you get tested it often is a range of racing thoughts and scenarios, and whatever pattern each person goes through when confronted with unknown situations. Maybe one person seeks someone to share and talk it through with; perhaps another stuffs it and keeps it to themselves; yet others go binge on whatever their choice of escape is: drugs, sex, compulsive shopping. Who knows? Each person has or lacks different coping/non-coping skills.