Don went to take an HIV test. The clinic was offering an entire STD special for a few dollars more, so he upgraded to the premium package. He went through the necessary procedures and was told to come back in a week.

Receiving your HIV test results is a serious matter. In America, results are always read in person. Contrast that with other countries, where you have the option of getting results by phone, email or fax. (Ha! Fax! What a way to get bad news.)

The sweat starts pouring when they put you in the room to wait. Even if you have nothing to worry about, the pits get a little damp. And if there is something to worry about, your hands start trembling, your guts clench up, and your mind starts replaying over and over the dirty area where you stuck your manhood (or offered up your womanly innocence), ruing the day you ever saw that dirty girl (or guy), and vowing to a number of gods that you will use protection in the future. A better commercial for safe sex there is not.

Different medical practitioners have varying ways of reporting your fate. Some do it in a casual manner, while some dramatically open the paper and slowly read the results. It’s like a bad game show, but instead of a trip to Tahiti, you’re playing for your life.

Don jumped off the stool when the nurse entered the room. He was by no means the dirtiest among us, but there is always reason to worry.

"There’s good news and bad news," she said in an even tone, and continued, not giving him an option of choice. "The good news is that you don’t have syphilis…."

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His mouth went dry. His mind went numb. He couldn’t speak or move. She went on.

"…and the bad news is…" she paused, unwilling to be the bearer, "…we lost the results of your HIV test. You’ll need to retake the test, but it’s free, of course."

When the shock passed and he was calm enough to clean the feces out of his drawers, he bawled out the nurse.

"I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but I’m going to. Never, ever, ever report the results like that!"

The second test was taken, and he passed with flying colors. He never put himself at risk again.

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