I do not know how to feel tonight. I probably had my last weekday counseling session earlier, and to make things worse/better, I was the only counselor in the clinic for the first two hours. Then help came – I guess for a couple of hours – and then he left, and I was back to being the lone volunteer today (well, technically, yesterday). I would miss doing this – helping people, educating them about HIV, talking to them and their experiences.
Today, I got another weird situation.
A young couple, probably in their early twenties, came and one of them had himself tested. I thought they were just kids, one looked a bit frail/thinner than the other; but I was observing how sweet they were. The thin guy even bought food for the two of them, since the results took a bit longer to be processed. And when I was about to deliver the result, they requested that both of them would be in the counseling room. I was like, okay, maybe the two were just very, very close.
Let’s give ’em names, G1 was the guy who had himself screened, G2 was the thin guy – the boyfriend actually. So when we were in the counseling area, I of course asked them if they were partners. They said yes. My initial comment was – then I recommend, if you are partners, that both of you get tested.
G2 then said, he already has HIV (which, of course, caught me by surprise). G1, on the other hand, Has not been tested before. So I was assuming that this is just a new couple.
I proceeded with the risk assessment and asked G2 when was the last time he had unprotected sex with his partner – he said YESTERDAY. It did not fall under the window period; whatever result we get would only be accurate based on his sexual activity for the past couple of weeks. If he had unprotected sex the day before, and HIV has already entered his body, chances are it would take at least two more weeks for the screening to detect the HIV antibody.
What’s so frustrating about it is that
1) Both of them were too young
2) G1 tested negative – which, clearly, was something that he did not expect. I was able to see a glimmer of hope in his eyes, that he could still live a life without the virus. And this was met with
3) a hint of Disappointment for G2 because if G1 is not open to maintaining a long relationship with a PLHIV (person living with HIV); then it could be the end of them.. but..
4) still, I saw the love – that G2 had for G1, he tried to smile and be happy
despite the fact that it could be the end for them; and for G1, whom I asked if he would be ready to be HIV positive and although he was not able to give an answer, he seemed to be already expecting it to happen. Especially when I explained to them about the window period.
Again, I could not understand why, when your boyfriend is HIV positive – would you still have unsafe sex with him? Taking care of yourself is vital. You would not want both of you to end up dead?! How could they care for
But you see, this is complicated. It’s all up to them. I presented them with options- which I hope one or both of them would deem to be the right thing to do; and if and when they do come back for G1 to have himself re-tested, I pray that he gets the result he wishes for. Not the one that they were expecting. If he really does love G2, I hope he finds it in his heart to take care of him and not put both of their lives at risk.
Ah, the agony of being an HIV counselor. There were so many more stories – but this one would be something that I can also not forget. I hope their love will last.
Of course, I did not divulge names or specifics as those details are highly classified. I just treat this as my own personal safe space, my outlet. I have always found writing to be very therapeutic.