2 min

Waiting in purgatory (Part 2)

Truvada, syphilis and old hookups

Credit: Mike Miksche

In realizing that the virus could build a resistance to the drug if I were to seroconvert and still continued to use it, I wondered whether another strain of HIV could acquire this resistance, and become a strain that Truvada couldn’t protect against. Could all of us who are using it suddenly be faced with a new virus that could infect regardless? I realized this was paranoid, but it also seemed very logical to me. When I brought it up with my doctor, he didn’t say that it was impossible. “That’s not exactly something we can test for,” he said jokingly. “It’d be hard to find subjects willing to participate.”

It was the dead of winter, my skin was dry and itchy, and under the fluorescent glare of The 519’s lights, I felt incredibly unattractive. On the other side of the hall though there was a daddy who had his back to me. I imagined that he had just got off work. In a beige button down shirt and corduroy trousers, he looked like an architect or professor. He kept looking over his shoulder at me curiously. Normally, I would’ve welcomed the attention, but all I could think of was HIV so I pulled my phone out as a distraction. Checked my email — no new messages. Checked Facebook — nothing interesting. Twitter — why bother? Recon — two new messages. No face pics though. Back to email — still no new messages.

When I looked up the daddy was gone. The guy next to me was on Tumblr scrolling through amateur porn. When he noticed me watching, he put his phone away. I smiled at him as if to say that it was okay, but it just made him more nervous.

With nothing better to do I started thinking about the word “seroconvert.” The word “convert,” always reminded me of religion, but it implied something more voluntary and kind of crazy. There’s nothing voluntary about HIV transmission. Who came up with this ridiculous word?

The waiting room was making me loopy.

When is it going to be my damn turn? I looked over at health worker sitting at the makeshift reception desk. He seemed so relaxed and causal getting more clipboards prepared.

Doesn’t he care that some of us might test positive today? And what about if I had seroconverted? I’m already taking PrEP. I’m building a resistance to Truvada as we speak. No, he’s just preparing his clipboards, checking his text messages, making plans for after work.

He looked up. “I’ve got a survey here if anybody would like to take it to pass the time. It should take about twenty minutes. You’ll receive a five dollar Starbucks gift card for your participation.”

Half the men grabbed surveys. I refused in a silent protest to his lax attitude. I wanted more compassion.

I’d been there for about 30 minutes when a young man entered and joined the party. “We’re also doing syphilis testing today,” he was told at the front desk. “Would you like to test for that as well?”

The young man hesitated, seemingly caught off guard. “Sure.” He took his clipboard and sat directly across from me. He was vaguely familiar so I concluded that I’ve just seen him out on Church Street somewhere. A minute later I realized that I’d slept with him about half a year ago . . .

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