I get tested regularly. I'm always careful to use condoms with partners (except my fluid-bonded primary). I don't engage in oral sex if I have canker sores. You're getting the idea that I'm pretty careful.
You can imagine my shock then when I got a call from the STI testing company while at a client. No, I missed the call. The voice mail that I needed to call back to schedule a time to talk to one of the doctors. There were no details, but as I called back and scheduled my callback time, my heart was racing and I was close to panic.
It's okay, I told myself. I just went in for some basic tests because of another partner's scare. Maybe they're just going to talk to me about something minor or make sure I don't have any unanswered questions. This did not settle me.
So I get the call, and it turns out that two of the four HIV tests came back inconclusive. Which means it wasn't negative. These were the two tests that would come back first if it was a recent infection. I raced through my mind trying to recall recent partners, but there were only one or two. The doctor asked how many partners I had in the previous year and slut shamed me for having that number, saying it was very possible someone could have had it. Never mind that I used protection or got tested regularly.
A few sobs later (okay, maybe not rational but I'm a bit of a hypochondriac, so this is a worst case scenario), I called my doctor and they set up a time for me to get re-tested the next morning.
My doctor comes in and reviews the circumstances with me and my partner (because she's amazing and supportive and came to the appointment with me). My doctor knows me and my safety and testing practices and concludes that it's probably a false positive. We redo the same tests along with the more comprehensive RNA test. Results on the quick tests should be ready on Monday and the RNA test on Wednesday. I leave with a little hope that this was a big misunderstanding.
The call was on Thursday, I got to my doc on Friday. So I had to wait THE WHOLE WEEKEND to hear about anything. I had reassurances, but was still highly stressed most of the time.
There was a cool event going on and some good friends checking out a dungeon on Saturday night. I forced myself to go out, even to a highly sexual environment. It was tough but honestly, being out and doing things was better than sitting home and worrying. Actually, one of my friends told me that she used to work in one of the rapid testing labs and it's very possible my sample got mixed up or contaminated. This calmed me enough to get through the evening. The anxiety monster was still waiting for me when I got home, but it was a little easier to get through Sunday with that in mind.
Monday comes. I go to the client, nervous as hell. Constantly checking my phone for new email. Finally, around lunch time, it arrives, a new message from my doctor. I clicked the link, extremely anxious as I did.
The news? No HIV. In fact, all tests clearly negative.
HIV isn't the end of the world in this day and age, but still sadly carries a lot of stigma. And it's still not a smooth ride. In this process, I did a lot of research into it and came out knowing a lot more.
And thankfully, negative.
But, the lesson?
False positives happen. Try to keep that anxiety monster at bay until you have real results!
And, don't go back to a slut shaming quick result lab for more testing. Find a better doctor that will help you understand the risks and do another round of more comprehensive tests.
Side note: I also had a false positive last year for Syphilis. It happens!