Being a Counselor
I have pursued a career in public health for over 6 years now and in my current position, I am not fully able to utilize my HIV tester and counselor certification. In my last job role, most of my work was HIV testing but now I do more HIV prevention and education.
Due to low staffing at my facility, I have been able to jump back into the clinic side and utilize my certification once again. Recently, I expressed to my supervisor that I did not realize how much I missed conducting HIV testing with my community.
Using my HIV tester and counselor certification
Being able to utilize my HIV counselor certification has been very rewarding lately. I have been able to connect with more people in the community who may not identify as gay, bisexual, or queer. Especially in the time of COVID-19, I love that people are still thinking about things like HIV transmission as well as sexually transmitted infections.
During the pandemic, I saw a decrease in routine HIV testing so I am pleased to see a slow but steady increase in HIV testing at my place of work. The programs that I oversee are very specific to demographics that are at increased risk of HIV transmission. These populations are men of color who have sex with men ages 18 to 29 years old.
Now that I am helping out with testing, I am able to have sexual health discussions with people outside of the target demographic.
Why I love doing HIV testing
One major component that I love about testing once again is how comfortable total strangers are with expressing to me their need for HIV testing and sexual health education. I try to make every individual feel unjudged about anything that they decide to share with me. I always make sure to spend extra time with clients who really want to express to me their worries about HIV transmission.
PrEP and PEP information
I also make sure to ask the client if they have ever heard about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) or PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis). If they have not heard about either of these, then I take time to go over PrEP and PEP and ask if the client is interested in talking to a PrEP Navigator who can explain to them how they are able to start on the medication.
Building connections and rapport
Another reason I love doing the HIV testing myself is that I always send them off with condoms and lube for the future. I also make sure to give them my business card in case they want to get another HIV test. I make sure to always promote routine testing every 3 months especially for people who express that they are sexually active.
What I have noticed is how they feel comfortable contacting me whenever they want to do their routine HIV test. Even though I am not the main HIV tester and counselor at my site, I still make time in my schedule if individuals would like to still have me as their counselor.
Being able to test again really made me realize how much I missed the one-on-one counseling sessions with the community and, moving forward, I would like to see how I can reengage with testing within my position.
Do you wear a red ribbon on World AIDS Day?