To help destigmatize HIV/AIDS testing, commemorate National HIV Testing Day 2014 and remind women about the importance of getting tested, The Black AIDS Institute sat down with blogger Verneda White, 30, to talk about her most recent HIV test, what sparked it and the tricky exchange called condom negotiation.
What made you decide to get tested?
Honestly? I got caught up. Even though for the past six years I had used condoms 100 percent, I still slipped up this one time.
I am in a new relationship and was struggling with negotiating around protection. There are a lot of men that don't want to use condoms, saying that "sex feels better without it" or "You're not going to get anything" or "I'll just pull out."
I was clear that if he didn't want to use condoms, then we needed to get tested together. He was giving me pushback, telling me he knew his status. But the more we spoke about it, the more I realized that he didn't really know if he was positive or not. So I knew it was time to get tested.
Did your partner get tested as well?
No, he hasn't, and his apprehension comes from his fear. Even though he doesn't think he is positive, he just hasn't gone to get tested yet. I am hoping he will do it soon.
What was your experience like? What were your feelings leading up to this test?
I have been tested numerous times in different settings. This time around I actually got tested twice, and both times were good experiences. First I went to Planned Parenthood to get birth control. I wasn't planning on getting tested, but I was offered a rapid test and took it for the practice. It came back negative.
But given that my incident of unprotected sex was less than three months ago, I wanted more-reliable results, so I had already made plans to get an HIV CD4 test at a different clinic the very next day for peace of mind.
This type of test requires two vials of blood, and you have to wait two weeks to get the results. I wanted to know as soon as possible if I was positive in order to get the treatment that I needed.
Have your experiences getting tested always been this empowering?
No. I had one gynecologist who, every time I would ask to be tested, she would ask all of these questions and try to talk me out of it. It was a constant struggle, and it shouldn't have been. She was Black and I am Black: We are the face of AIDS. I guess the main part of her medical practice was worrying about pregnancy and not HIV. And that's a serious problem.
Any advice for women who want to get tested but are getting pushback from their doctor?
Mentally prepare yourself before your appointment that this may happen, so that if it does, you aren't taken off guard. Be clear: You want to get tested and insist that it happens. Stand up for yourself and get tested no matter what.
What have you learned from this most recent testing experience?
That I'm human. I am fallible. You know, I've spent so much time beating myself up, saying that I should known better.
I am an advocate that tells others to use condoms and get tested, so I definitely felt like a hypocrite. Plus, I lost my cousin to AIDS, and I didn't feel like I was honoring his legacy. But we all can have a slipup. And the key is to make changes for the future. So moving forward, I am going to be smarter and use protection because I am not willing to go against what I believe again.
Kellee Terrell is an award-winning Chicago-based freelance writer who writes about race, gender, health and pop culture. Her work has been featured in Essence, BET.com, The Advocate, The Root, The Huffington Post and TheBody.com.