One of the requirements of going to Russia is to have an HIV test and get a clearance. This must be submitted with the Visa application. There are all sorts of caveats too, what is needed, how it has to be signed, who completes and stamps what.
I have never had an HIV test, I haven’t lived the lifestyle that would require me to have one (which is just code for ‘I have been very dull lately’!). I had no problem going for a test, it was all a bit of an adventure really. The test has to be done at an approved place, so a hospital is always a good bet, and my friend offered to take me there. We arranged for me to come to her work place at lunch time and we’d hail a couple of motorbike taxis to get us there. Of course they took us the long way round … but Tracey was having none of it and made it clear she knew exactly where we were going and she was only paying 40BTH! They got it pretty quickly and took us there and only asked 40!
When I met Tracey I also saw a couple of other people I knew and it was great to have time for a quick chat. They asked where we were off too and I gaily answered – ‘Oh, I have to have an HIV test – for my Visa.’ It certainly got their attention, they had never heard that one before, and Tracey was just cringing. She was horrified that I would tell people – most people would keep an HIV test a secret it seems. To me it was going to be an interesting experience and I saw a funny side to it given my monastic existence of late. My friend had other ideas and so I didn’t mention it again in deference to her sensibilities!
So we arrived at the hospital and tried to figure out where we had to go. Tracey knew what she had to do but I was totally lost. A couple of the nurses seemed to speak pretty reasonable English and got me sorted out very quickly. The whole process took just a few minutes and then we sat and waited, and waited ….. but I eventually got to see the doctor and his English was excellent. He had a great sense of humour too and wanted to tell jokes. He told me about a patient that came into see him last week. The fellow was getting old and had been asking the doctor for help in giving up smoking for some time. When he had arrived last week the Doctor asked the old chap how he had been feeling and if he was still smoking. The old fellow was quite indigent in his reply, ‘I don’t smoke!’ Apparently he’d developed Alzheimer’s and forgotten that he ever smoked. The doctor just saw the benefits, great way to give up said the doctor happily.
I got my HIV clearance certificate, of course, had an interesting experience and learned that there are some things people just don’t find as interesting, or the adventure, that I do.
I promise, Tracey, I will never mention that I am going for an HIV test in a social setting again. …