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A Test Worth Taking

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Scarlett Johansson recently admitted to Allure magazine that she does it twice a year: "I'm not promiscuous," she said. "I get tested for HIV twice a year.... One has to be socially aware. It's part of being a decent human to be tested for STDs."

I have to admit that my initial reaction was, what the hell? I mean, use a condom, for crying out loud. If you are careful, why get tested every six months? But at the time, I had actually never been tested myself. Sure, I've been tested for other STDs during my regular annual physical, but never for the big one.

My boyfriend -- who has tested clean -- has been bugging me to do it for months, but I always had an excuse for not doing it: I'm busy; we're using condoms, anyway; I don't want to go to some creepy clinic and get stuck with a needle; I'm scared. Of course, I was just being a baby. I knew it was something that I had to do. And not because I wanted to be "a decent human," but because it's my body, it's my health, and ... I decided to go back on the pill and I want to have sex without condoms, dammit.

Now that I had decided to do it, I wanted it done fast and I wanted to find a clinic within walking distance. After doing a little research, I found out that the South Beach AIDS Project (SoBAP) offers free, confidential testing, and they use the OraQuick� ADVANCE� Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody Test, which means no needles and results in 20 minutes. So, last Monday afternoon, I walked to the SoBAP office located in the back of the CVS on Lincoln Road, and asked to be tested.

The testing counselor, Aryah Lester, was very sweet and exuded such relaxing energy that I was completely at ease. I was handed a release form and questionnaire to test my knowledge of how HIV is transmitted. I was asked about drug use and risky behavior. I was also asked how my life would change if the test is positive. (Uh, how do you think?) I was called into a smaller room, where Aryah explained that HIV can be transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. She also informed me that counseling services are available should my results be positive. I was then handed something that looked like an e.p.t. Home Pregnancy Test, and told to rub the end on my gums for a few seconds. "Okay," Aryah said. "Put the test in this tube and come back in fifteen minutes.

I walked to Starbucks, ordered a tall, iced, soy chai tea latte, and was suddenly struck with terror. What about that time the condom broke? What about the time the freakin' condom came off inside? Oh my God, I have never used a condom when giving oral sex! I kept looking at my cell phone, but the time didn't seem to move. I scanned the crowd waiting for the bus and wondered if any of them were HIV positive. Ugh.

It was finally time to get the results, so I walked back into CVS. Aryah called me into the little room, again. She closed the door, looked at the test, and said, "You're fine," as she pointed to the test stick. She recommend getting tested every six months, and I asked why. "Well, people slip up, and you just never know." I was handed a copy of the results, and I thanked Aryah for being so nice. "It was nice to meet you," she smiled. "Good luck with your boyfriend."

I skipped out onto Lincoln Road, sent a text message to my boy (throw those condoms away!), and headed to Spris for the Beat the Clock deal, where I enjoyed a margherita pizza and a pint of Moretti for $5.37 (plus tax and gratuity). Damn, it was a good day.-Lyssa Oberkreser

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