"Hi, I am 21, and I think I have HIV.
"I have had several one-night stands during the last six years, a few with boys, some with girls. The number would not exceed ten, but is more than five.
"I am comfortable with my naked body, and I like being naked with other people. I am comfortable discussing sex, and I consider myself pretty educated about being responsible when it comes to sex. Use a condom. Take the pill. Get tested for STIs, among others.
"In a time where twenty-somethings feel more comfortable than ever discussing their sexuality, and where “slut shaming” is a term that exists to call out those who disparage women for having a healthy sexual appetite, I feel like an anomaly. I know I’m a hypocrite. I know the things that I should know, but I have never once applied them.
"I have never used a condom, and I let guys do me without it. Some of them don’t ejaculate inside me, but were a couple who did. I don’t take pills. I have never been tested for any STI. Even when I had a pregnancy scare, I didn’t bother to take a pregnancy test, but instead, just freaked out until my period thankfully arrived again. Some of my one-night stands had alcohol involved, but I can’t use that as an excuse, can I?
"Now I am here at 21, and I am afraid I have HIV. Why don’t I just get tested, right?
"The answer is that I’m scared. I know that the smart thing to do is to just suck it up and go to a doctor, and find out the results in a couple of hours. If it turns out negative, I can rest easy and maybe actually start to have sex responsibly. If it turns out positive, however, I can get started with the treatment regimen, and actively do something to maintain my health even with the disease.
"But I can’t. I can’t bring myself to drive to the doctor’s office and watch my blood get drawn, and wait for hours to know my sentence. I am terrified that my suspicion will be confirmed, and that I will learn that I only have a limited number of years to live.
"I don’t want to be different. I don’t want to have to be counseled. I don’t want to have to go to support groups. I want to be carefree at this age, not having to take drugs that try to keep the killer virus at bay. I don’t want to know that I will die quicker than my friends will, that one day I will waste away in a hospital bed, because my body can’t protect itself anymore. I am a coward, and it makes me hate myself.
"So to feel like I’m doing something, I Google everything I can about HIV and AIDS. I interpret every bump, cold, and fatigue as a symptom. I wake up some nights in a cold sweat, because I dream of the virus multiplying in my body. Some nights, I don’t even get to sleep because of paranoia and the feeling that I might die any day now. Irrational, I know. Stupid, I agree. But I am not brave enough to do what I have to do.
"How do other people do it? How do they wake up one day and decide to get tested for HIV? Where do they find the courage? What is the secret? Can anyone please tell me?
"Maybe someday I will get tested, though.
"But not today."