Accidents, HIV and the Public Health System

So, this morning I did what every self respecting girl of the modern times does and pottered off for an AIDS test. *pat pat pat*. I didn’t want to faff with the whole doctor/gynae/pathologist=large sums of money routine, so I thought I’d take advantage of the VTC* programme that the government insists is the inalienable right of every South African. Or something. I got up at the crack**, left the house, got in my car and drove towards the local clinic. And, at one point, as you do, attempted to drive straight across an intersection. Which was clearly idiotic, because the man coming from the other direction wanted to turn right, and wasn’t even remotely interested in actually looking for on coming traffic. Much hooting, and one unavoidable fender bender later, I’m leaping out of my blue vehicle and shaking my fists in a rage, only to watch as he reverses, to get out of the way of more on coming traffic, right into the person behind him.

What a fukken eejit! (I had to laugh)

I checked my damage, decided it wasn’t worth the effort, and chortled happily at this plonker’s utter stupidity. I turned to tell him I’d let it go, but once he’d realized he had two angry fist shakers advancing on him, he revved up and did a runner, looking like an anal probe victim; surprised and very scared. Poor bastard.

I should have taken it as a sign. And just given up.

But no. I wanted to know my status. And I wanted to know it now***. So I popped in at the local FAMSA, was referred to Groote Schuur, and wandered off up the hill.

Groote Schuur, as you may or may not know, is the biggest training hospital in South Africa. You’d think it would be impressive. But no. I haven’t been there since the early 90s when my coloured friend got stabbed for hanging out with white chicks outside a “white” pub. Nice. Back then it was a typical hospital. Clean. Reeking with the stomach churning smell of iodine and antiseptic. Filled with officious people charging about with clipboards.

Not so now.

I wandered the maze of dirty, shabby, blanket and sheet strewn halls for about 20 minutes before I found someone who knew where I was and who could direct me to the outpatient reception.

My god.

A huge cavernous room filled with about 300 people (seriously), all waiting passively with the eyes of the terminally ignored. A handful of doleful faces at glass encased counters, handing out forms and shaking their heads. The not so subtle smell of unwashed, sick and miserable bodies, crammed in a hopeless hole.

I took one look, thanked fuck for my Discovery Health Plan, and, I’m ashamed to say, ran like the pampered princess I am. (I’m still feeling rather shell shocked about how the hell our health system deals with all of this, and I’m grateful, once again, that it’s not my knot to unravel.)

Anyway, cue another local clinic, which I’d remembered from detours through Woodstock. More shabbiness, more people, but not so intimidating. And a whole lot cleaner. A sweet sister. A bit of gumph about living with HIV and “do you have a support system in case” stuff. And I was pronounced free of dread disease.

And all in time for work. Who says there’s no adventure anymore? *Eep*

*Voluntary Testing and Counselling. Oi vey.
** Do not attempt to get to a public anything in SA after 7.30am, unless you have 20 odd years to waste in queue.
***Say what you will about instant gratification, but it sure as hell makes me happy.

P.S. how cool is this French HIV/AIDS awareness ad? *double eep*

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28 thoughts on “Accidents, HIV and the Public Health System

  1. kyknoord says:

    “…looking like an anal probe victim; surprised and very scared…” I think I’d prefer not to know how you know that.
    Incidentally, am I the only one bothered by the fact that the scorpion’s tail is arching the wrong way? Not that I’m hugely into arachnoid porn or anything, but y’know, it’s vaguely bothersome. Oh wait – maybe that’s the whole point! He’s not expecting his hot scorpion date to have a pseudo-prehensile tail. Very clever, indeed.

  2. dolceii says:

    @ Kyk > Or maybe she’s just really double jointed? And, for the record, it’s called creative license…I can imagine what an anal probe victim would look like. That’s my story. And I’m sticking to it. 😉

  3. Parenthesis says:

    We had to bribe staff to use the VCT clinic over at the big corporate I used to work for. Our Monday special was an HIV test and a KFC Street Wise 2 🙂 And even if you know that the results can only be negative, those two minutes are godsdamn nerve wracking.

  4. daisyfae says:

    glad you were uninjured – on both the drive and the clinic visit.

    i did a similar clinic run for HIV test – didn’t want to charge it on my employer-subsidized health plan because i am suspicious regarding patient privacy rights, but i needed an answer NOW. Fortunately, we have Planned Parenthood (i was on the board of the local group for many years – hence my awareness of services). i was happy to pay full price (cash, of course), but it left me sad – i was there by choice (paranoid choice, but choice nonetheless). not everyone has the luxury. and not every community is served by a clean, accessible, reasonably well managed “pay as you can” clinic…

    the scorpion poster rocks – or stings – and i’m going to e-mail it to my testosterone-fueled son just for giggles…

  5. dolceii says:

    @ Parenthesis > no one gave me KFC? I waz robbed. 😦 And ja. the one I did in the 90s, when I had to wait two weeks for the results…that made me a condom crusader for life!

    @ Daisyfae > suspicious of the medical fraternity? Good call. Back when I was still a very young girlie, my very good (gay) friend, T, got “the call” from an ex-lover to say he might have HIV. My mum paid for the doctors visit and the test for T, but because he was underage (just), the good Doc called his parents. Nice!

    Apparently, now though, you can demand VTC and the government is obligated to give it to you, regardless of your age etc. Which is good in theory, but I gather doesn’t actually work. Oi.

    and there a couple of those posters – very cool – you could do a little campaign. Really mess with his head. *cackle*

  6. Parenthesis says:

    Condom crusader, giggle. Sounds like a super hero of some sort 😉

  7. Parenthesis says:

    You know. Stand tall, type of thing 😉

  8. dolceii says:

    @ P > 😀 He’s hard and strong and up for anything. Only, he’s completely useless once he’s come…*ahem*…I mean arrived…I mean…um….

  9. Parenthesis says:

    Spit out dear, I’m all ears 😉

  10. Parenthesis says:

    it. Spit it out.
    Sheesh. See, all this talk about French letters and I am useless for the rest of the afternoon.
    Oh, and btw, I did tag you.

  11. Parenthesis says:

    It’s a pleasure 😉

  12. dolceii says:

    @ P > *snort* you said spit. And oh fok. Ok. Mmmm. I will have to tink and tinker….

  13. Parenthesis says:

    You prefer to swallow?
    No actually don’t answer that. I’m not sure I want to know 😉

  14. dolceii says:

    @ P > Swifts and Terns and Ducks, actually. But that’s a whole other bird game.

  15. Well done! You know I’M always impressed.

    You shouldn’t go to hospitals for VCT, rather stick to clinics. I know UCT has a few sites for testing. The hospitals these days are acting as end-of-the-line/ hospices places for poor South Africans to find pain relief.

    And with clinics, I realised fast that you should phone ahead and book an appointment. Saves you queues like you won’t believe. Otherwise, apparently on DISCOVERY, you can simply visit a few Dis-Chems or Clicks and they’ll do the test there free and you get those points.

    As for those ads… it’s the one with the woman & the spider that gets to me. Even now I am eeeking at the recalled image!

  16. Ja waiting for those results, even when you know its negative. Nail biting stuff.

  17. dolceii says:

    @ Champers > I thought I might make momma proud! (But then again, I’ve been pretty good on that front for the last decade). NOW you tell me about Clicks…fek. I’ll remember that for next year. I haven’t seen the spider one…but my scalp is crawling just thinking about it.

    @ Mands > All those “what if” questions. I remember one test I had a good long while ago, when I was going to Israel and they required a test for entry. My mum organised it on her health plan. And all the way there, I was wondering what the hell I would do if I was positive. And asking mum if she’d still love me, respect me if I was. That was hectic!

  18. It is hectic Dolce. I had someone over a couple of weeks ago who has just contracted HIV. She is the daughter of someone who worked with me. I have been like a confidant in her life. I really felt the fear when she told me. But I know she needs me so she had to tell me. And I just hugged her and told her that no matter what I’d be there for her. I think the fear must be overwhelming. That fear of rejection – it lives in so many of us anyway.

  19. dolceii says:

    @ Mands > especially in SA…where the stigma is so horrendous. Jesus. I can’t even imagine.

  20. Groote Schuur is scary. I made the mistake of visiting after dark once, thankfully with my brother (not Virgil or Edgar, the other one) in tow, and we managed to get lost somewhere between Obstetrics and Oncology. Ooer. We spent a good half hour traipsing (then running) through miles of silent, seemingly deserted corridors bathed in feeble, flickering neon – if they were lit at all. Très Halloween. Très Terrifying. Slightly more thrilling is the 2 Military Hospital in Wynberg where doctors white coats and combat gear give you a fearsome dressing-down if you even *think* about lingering after visiting hours.

    (I’ve had The Test maybe 6 or 7 times in the last few years – both voluntarily and for mandatory insurance purposes – and I have never been offered counselling. Not once. Nada. In some cases, the only indication I’ve been given that I’ve ‘passed’ has been the first chunk of cash going out of my bank account. Nice.)

  21. Parenthesis says:

    Groote Schuur has NOTHING on Valkenberg Mrs B. The place is spooooooooooky, particularly at night.

  22. dolceii says:

    @ Mrs B > Doctors? White Coats? Combat Gear….where did you say this was again?

    @ P > Valkenberg hey? Tell us more 😉

  23. dolceii: Halfway between Wynberg Park and Insanity.

    Parenthesis: Yes, do! What were you in for? 😀

  24. dolceii says:

    @ Mrs B > Aaah. I think I’ve been there before. But it might have been an hallucination. Or something.

  25. nursemyra says:

    as the mother of an HIV positive son, I know all about the agonising wait for test results. what I’m not familiar with is this apparently instant result you’re talking about. does this mean you do a test for HIV and get a result straight away? have things changed that much in the two years since my son was diagnosed?

  26. Dolce says:

    @ Nurse Myra > Good to see you. And gawddammit…HIV positive son? that’s gotta take some getting used to? But Aus is pretty good, isn’t it? Not as much of the stigma as here? And ja. You can even get a self-test at the pharmacy now, but the shorter the wait for the results, the bigger the margin of error. So, if you’re really wanting to be safe, safe, safe, it’s a blood test, a couple of days and then another one in 3 months to cater for the window period. Enough time to fuck permanently with your mind. And make you a condom hero(ine)

  27. nursemyra says:

    yeah, so far he’s well but he’s a smoker which is a worry as it also suppresses the immune system.

    *sigh* children are a never ending source of worry even when they’re grown up

    apropos of a comment you made elsewhere, Neil Finn seems to have a great relationship with his son…..

  28. Dolce says:

    @ Nurse Myra > I’d like to have a great relationship with Neil Finn. Ahem….did I just say that out loud. Oops.

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