I've known Ricardo for a few years now, through various outlets around Long Island and through my pals Manny and Ozzie. He's into a lot of things, enough to rival me. He sells real estate, he's into photography, he hosts Latin Fusion parties once a month at the LI Eagle, and he also works for the New York State Department of Health. That's why he was at Exclusive on Friday.
I forget the name of the program he works for, but what he does is recruit people to take surveys for a study on HIV and Hepatitis C in the Long Island area. They pay participants $50 to take the survey and another $25 to get tested. Ricky's asked me to do it before, and I've always said no. I've never been tested, which is really not a good thing, mostly because I've always been afraid to. Given my situation, I nervously said yes.
I won't say too much about the survey itself, though the questions were extensive and somewhat personal. It is anonymous, which I guess would be important to a lot of people, but I didn't really care. The HIV test is optional, but when we got to that part early on in the questionnaire, I agreed to it. I had a feeling I was safe, but I've always regretted that I never had it done and now was as good a time as any.
I really wasn't surprised by the result, but I did feel a long-held weight come off my shoulders. I'd had a partner once (mid-80's) who'd died of AIDS in 1991 and I should have gotten tested back then. I remember how scared I was at the time, terrified as a matter of fact and convinced I was going to die. Of course time went on and I never showed symptoms. I was in a monogamous relationship for 20-plus years, so I figured I was safe. Still, it's always good to know for sure.
HIV and AIDS is not as scary as it once was. It is no longer a death sentence, and I even found out at the survey that they do now even have a combination of medications that can prevent you from getting it. I think I'll abstain, as I am not so promiscuous, nor do I play unsafely. So there, I did it! If anyone within the range of this blog has any of the risk factors involved in acquiring HIV, intravenous drug use, unprotected sex with the same sex, or even questionable sex practices, please go out and get tested. I wish I hadn't waited so long and I'm glad to have peace of mind!