QUEERTY QUERY

FIRST PERSON: Home HIV-Testing Kits Offer “No Guidance… No Emotional Support”

Oh, it’s a GREAT idea. It’ll get ALL the people who don’t have the guts to show up at a real testing center! Everyone has a DUTY to get tested to PROTECT other people, and ANYTHING we can do to get MORE tests is BETTER, right?

…until YOU’RE the one whose positive result blindsides you, with nothing more than a stick of plastic and a customer-service operator who’d rather be painting her nails than providing consolation. Suddenly, there are some rather glaring issues.

If someone isn’t mature/bold enough to go to a testing center, how are they supposed to be mature enough to handle a positive result? Alone? Perhaps while on a lunch break, or while a partner waits in the other room? If an HIV test is just too much strain for them, how the hell are they going to get hooked into the medical care that is necessary? Counseling is a vital link in the testing process. Without it, all you have is a result that tells you nothing, that protects no one and that could promote suicidal or homicidal reactions.

Or do we, as Queerty readers, merely accept that the value of human life ends abruptly at “your test came back positive”? That’s what I hear when people babble about the “NEED” to get tested for everyone, without understanding the roller coaster of emotions that arise if the results come back as something other than negative.

I tested positive from Home Access. The post-test counseling was a joke. There was no guidance to medical care, no emotional support, NOTHING. I was really lucky to live in a city with a fairly decent HIV support system, with friends who I hadn’t demonized for their status. If I’d been on my own, or if the result had come at a different time, things could have gone horribly wrong. I’ve heard similarly from other people who tested positive with home tests.

Justifying this test on the basis of “the need for testing” is to divorce the act of testing from anything that brings value to it, and implicitly, to wash our hands of the whole process in all its complexity. It demonstrates how little we value people who get “the wrong result” and it neglects the reality that many of these people may not behave as we’d like them to.

That’s right kiddos, a bitter faggot whose stick of plastic just told him he’s a pariah might not give a shit about YOUR health. In fact, he might even be out to get you.

…Or he might just decide to enjoy his new status more than he should and go a little wild, quickly allowing himself to become a “hub” in our spoke/hub model of transmission. Hell, in his despair, he might even remove a condom behind your back.

“OH NO!”

Suddenly, when your precious lives could be affected, it isn’t such a good idea, is it? Gee, maybe we want to make sure that these people aren’t bitter, disaffected and filled with a sense that they’ve got nothing to lose.

And hey, maybe, after screaming that “everyone has a duty to test” without giving two shits about what happens afterward, you’ll find yourself swabbing your cheek on a lunch break one day, only to determine that you’ve had contact with one of these maniacs who went off the deep end without a life saver. I hope you remember that it was all part of your obligation to avoid being a “public health hazard.”

—Queerty reader Mitch, responding to the Queerty Query: Are Rapid Home HIV Tests A Good Idea?