In this installment of Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'N' Roll, Sophie teaches us how to test for HIV in the comfort of our own homes.
SEX - ORAQUICK IN-HOME HIV TEST
I don't have HIV, wahoo! I do however have OCD and a resulting AIDS phobia, as I've written about, which means I've been tested about 50 times more often than I needed to be. When I heard about this new oral swab at-home HIV test, I figured I'd take advantage of my OCD and try it out for you guys.
At home HIV tests already existed, but you had to take a blood sample and mail it off then wait a few days and call some hotline to get your results. With OraQuick, it's the same oral swab test they use at Planned Parenthood. You know, they take you into a room and swab your mouth, then you spend the next 20 minutes in the waiting room making a mental flow chart of all the people your partner's fucked trying not to have a panic attack.
I wanted to write about this for my previous column, but these fuckers are hard to get your hands on. On their website they say they are available at CVS, Walgreens, and RiteAid but I called about every one of those pharmacies within a 30 minute commute of my apartment and not one had them in stock! Get on that, New Yorkers like to fuck. So I ordered online through CVS. It came in about a week, but I've had the stomach flu, and although I realize the scientists who invented the test probably thought of this, I was worried my flu virus would somehow interfere and give me a false positive. (Yes, I know I'm crazy). Plus when you're so sick that you're barfing into a trashcan next to your bed the last thing you want to do is take a HIV test. So, along with my dirty laundry I packed my OraQuick with me home for the holidays! I briefly considered wrapping it and putting it under the tree as a gag-gift for someone but decided against it.
I've thoroughly educated myself on the means of HIV transmission, and know from my recent sexual history that I didn't have anything to worry about, or else this column would read much more anxiously. The OraQuick test comes in an organized package with easy instructions, but here's a basic rundown:
1. Don't eat, drink, or use any dental products (toothpaste, mouthwash, etc) for 30 minutes prior to taking the test.
2. Remove the test tube from its nifty little drawer, unscrew the cap being careful not to spill any liquid, and place the test tube in its holder.
3. Take out the test strip, careful not to touch the swab, and run the swab once along your top and bottom gums.
4. Plop the test strip, swab down, results side facing out, into the test tube and wait 20 minutes to get your results. Don't wait longer than 40 minutes.
I spent these 20 minutes obsessively staring at the test strip. The smarter thing to do would be to step away and take some deep calming breaths, or I don't know, take a shot of whiskey if you need, just try to stay calm and remember that whatever your results are, you are strong and will ultimately be okay. HIV isn't the death sentence it once was, but rather a quite manageable disease.
During the 20 minutes of waiting the test strip turns a cloudy pink that fades to form either one or two lines. There are two letters on the test strip, a "C" and a "T." After 20 minutes, if you have a single line next to the "C" and no line next to the "T" your results are negative. If you have two lines, one next to both the "C" and "T" your results indicate positive.
The downside is that it's a little expensive, about $40 from CVS. If you do think there's a chance you've contracted HIV, getting tested somewhere like Planned Parenthood that also offers counseling could be less scarier than finding out your results alone. The upside is it's fast, convenient, and saves you a trip to the clinic. OraQuick reports it correctly identifies a negative reading 99.9 percent of the time and a positive 91.7 percent of the time. Most false-negatives are likely due to not waiting the three-month incubation period prior to taking the test. Along with practicing safe safe, knowing your status is one of the easiest ways to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. So however you decide to get tested, if you're sexually active, don't be a pussy and get it done.
DRUGS - OXYCODONE
Of all the prescription drugs worthy of abuse, I've always felt painkillers contained added morbidity, likely found in the common method of many users' introduction - pain. You're inflicted with bodily harm, perhaps a debilitating injury that prevents you from enjoying everyday things you once took for granted; walking, typing, reverse cowgirl. The injury creates emotional pain as well, which you also use the pills to try and dull. For me it was a broken toe my junior year of college, which sounds like nothing, but fuck man, you need your toes. I was wobbling around in a bootie on crutches for months, in part because the fucktard ER doctor in my small North Carolina college town set it wrong the first time so I had to go back and have the damn thing reset and start from scratch. I was given Percocet.
Let's clarify the brand names. Oxycodone is the name of the actual opiate, while OxyContin, the most infamous, is the brand name of pure time-released oxycodone. You snort some OxyContin during a night of heavy drinking and you could find yourself waking up surprised to be alive in some stranger's room then puke eight hours straight. Percocet, like the pills I was prescribed contain a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone, percentages varying. Eventually when my toe healed I weened myself off the stuff, but I remember it was kind of a nasty process. Oxycodone is terribly addictive, and can come with horrible side effects. Depression and anxiety for starters, that encourages the cycle of abuse. Then there's nausea, diarrhea, headaches, and of course the tendency to behave like a miserable cunt.
For injuries, of course I think people should be prescribed oxycodone when appropriate, you shouldn't have to experience physical pain without some relief (unless it's in the bedroom and you're into that). Just be careful, ween yourself off them properly, and realize mixing any opiate with alcohol is very risky business. The last time I was given oxycodone was when I went to an emergency clinic for horrible cramps, I was convinced I had a ruptured ovarian cyst or something and they gave me 5/325 Percocet. I didn't end up taking them, but rather saved them in my bedroom drawer - you know the one, where the dildos and nipple clamps live. They're for "emergencies" but sometimes I'll nibble off a little crumb of one before a tattoo or Brazilian bikini wax appointment. Judge away, but Brazilian waxes are paid-for torture.
ROCK 'N' ROLL - THE LAST BISON
So far I have spent my day sitting on the floor of my parents' bathroom taking HIV tests and writing about oxycodone on the couch next to my Grandmother by the fire. Anyway, I figured I should inject some warmth into this column, so here's some Virginia indie-folk rock to warm your naughty little hearts.
I can only stand Christmas music on Christmas Day and the few days leading up to it, and the classical stuff, nothing cheesy. I'll take "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" over "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" any day. For the day after Christmas, when the cats wrestle in the wrapping-paper jungle left under the tree, and the Brits and anyone else smart enough to take advantage of Boxing Day are drunk once again, and for all the cold wintry days to follow -- it's nice to take a break from your usual hip-hop or punk and play something a little merrier. I'm convinced the Last Bison are lovely any season, in fact their upcoming full-length album doesn't even come out until March, but I found them so delightfully perfect for the holidays I had to write about them now.
Self-described as "mountain-top chamber music," the Last Bison released an EP that's old news to some, Inheritance, in October of 2012 containing the acclaimed single "Switzerland." You can download the song here. Watch the whimsical video below. It reminds me of running through the woods during my first acid trip, or uh... let's go with the joy of being a kid during the holiday season before you needed drugs to believe in magic. Fellow New Yorkers, the Last Bison will be playing the Highline Ballroom on January 13.
P.S. The Last Bison, I'm sorry your name will now probably appear along with searches for OraQuick at-home HIV tests. You did not get the sexiest of columns, but I think you're terrific.