“Jan” arrived in our waiting room, I introduced myself and we found a nearby available office. She was an attractive, petite, and educated young woman who was fashionably dressed in her mid 20’s and a worried look on her face.
“I’ve had this HIV OraQuick test before, in fact I was here a couple of months ago,” she explained as she responded to my questions. She knew the drill and swabbed her mouth, handed it back to me to insert in the tube in the liquid that would tell us the news in 20 minutes.
“So tell me why you’ve come back so soon?” I wondered out loud.
“The person who did my test a couple of months ago suggested I come back in order to be sure. I was in the ‘window period’ previously,” she said.
The “Window Period” refers to the time between a potential infection with HIV and when its antibodies can be detected with the test (6-12 weeks).
I asked our usual questions as an opportunity to educate her about how HIV is transmitted and then tears rolled down her face as her voice quivered. “I am so scared I am going to be positive! I did a stupid thing, I knew better. I just couldn’t say no.” That last phrase caught my attention.
“I just couldn’t say no.”
Somewhere in this young woman’s life, she has learned that “No” is not “OK” for her to say.
Somewhere in this young woman’s life, someone has told her that she is not a whole person without a man in her life.
Somewhere in this young woman’s life, someone has shown her by example that a woman does not have the right to be in charge of her own body.
She believes it. And she is not alone. We had a more extensive conversation about forgiveness and learning from our mistakes that is too personal to share here.
The good news in this story is she was HIV Negative.
The harder lesson for all of us to teach is the positive lesson of how to help young women find their voices and how to help young men to find their ears.
This kind of response takes a love of self.
This kind of response takes a willingness to stand alone if need be.
This kind of response takes a belief that my body and your body is sacred.
Let your “Yes” mean “Yes” and your “No” mean “No.”
We could all stand to learn this lesson about sex, and in many other areas of our lives.