In my free time, I tell strangers their HIV status. Yesterday night, working the mobile unit, standing on Castro Street, I had my first positive client. He began to fill the paperwork to get tested and I asked him when he last tested. He said, 3 days ago and it was a preliminary positive result. I said, wait, you tested 3 days ago and it was a positive result. He said, yes, but I am not sure it was accurate. I looked him in the eyes, and said, let me get my supervisor. I didn’t know how to tell him, your first test was over 98% accurate. The confirmatory test, which you need to wait for, confirms the 2% grey area. I didn’t know how to tell him you tested positive for HIV and you are in denial. My supervisor walked him through waiting for the confirmatory test results and gave him the night line phone number for support. He made sure to let the client know to wait and stay calm. I was not prepared to have this conversation and grateful for my supervisor’s help in navigating the difficult conversation.
A few weeks ago, I had another client who carried a lot of luggage to our session. She said she had a fight with her boyfriend and he said some things that made her concerned, enough to get tested. My heart weighed heavily, waiting 20 minutes for the results. I wondered if she was kicked out or left on her own and if she had a place to go after this test. I was relieved to give her a negative result and watched her walk out the door.