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HIV Testing Shame

Posted by Ryan Morgan on August 20, 2014 at 7:57 PM

I was "shamed" for getting an HIV test. The scariest part of this statement is that I was shamed by my own doctor.

I went in for my annual physical (or as it is now know, my annual "Well Woman" checkup thanks to the Affordable Care Act), and while they were taking my blood, I requested they do an HIV test.

The nurse looked at me. "Why would you need that? Didn't you just get married?"

Calmly, I explained that despite being in a long-term and committed relationship with a single partner (that just happens to be a married relationship), I like the piece of mind knowing my status, and am taking control of my own healthcare by getting tested on a regular basis.

She took the extra blood and that was that.

But a week later, when I went in for my exam and test results, I heard about my extra test again. This time from my doctor. While going through my results, the doctor paused at the HIV test results (which were negative).

"I'm so sorry - I didn't ask them to add that test in. Did you?" he asked in a very nervous voice.

Again, I explained that I requested the test and like knowing my status. Plus, now that annual HIV testing is covered under the Affordable Care Act, there is no good reason NOT to get tested annually. Still, he bristled.

"It's just not something I want you to think I ordered for you."

I was shocked that healthcare providers were so questioning about my decision to know my HIV status and to take a proactive stance about my own health. With an epidemic like HIV and AIDS infecting millions of Americans (particularly young people), why would anyone question my decision to know my status?

Never in either of these conversations did anyone talk about risk factors, or question my protection habits. It was assumed that ordering an HIV test would be insulting to me, rather than empowering.

I am proud to know my status. I am thankful for the piece of mind that test gives me. And I feel stronger knowing that I taking an active role in keeping myself healthy.

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