So I was sat in the heat of my local NHS GUM clinic next to two crying girls and opposite a row of judgemental pensioners when the staff finally called me into the treatment room. Sitting down with the cheery, duty nurse I explained that I was directed to the GUM clinic for a blood-test, by online advice, as I need to provide an HIV certificate for my Russian VISA application. At first she looked at me blankly. Then, having taken in the somewhat unusual request she did what all staff do in such a situation and deflected me as fast as possible to the nearest superior...
“You’ll have to go and see the health advisor” she said.
“And they’d be able to help me?” I asked.
“Well, you see, we provide a confidential service here. We can’t get you the certification you need. By all means you can have the test, and it is free, but it’s an anonymous service - you get the result by text.”
(“There go my hopes of getting this done for free” I thought)
“Just so you haven’t come fully in vain...” she said, handing me a big, purple bag of condoms.
Clutching my consolation prize we marched back into the sticky waiting room. The little, duty nurse bobbed along in front of me pointing me in the direction of a second waiting area in a shadier corner of the clinic.
“Wait here and the health advisor will see you shortly, sorry we couldn’t help at first!” she politely said.
|HIV is a significant problem in modern Russia and students may need to provide a second test on arrival|
So there I waited for another 20 minutes in the company of a man whose hands fiddled nervously with a leaflet on alcoholism. His thumbs constantly folded and refolded the corners of the paper sending me into a kind of optic trance. Eventually the health advisor appeared from her office.
“Robert” she said and five men in the waiting room stood up.
Having sorted out that it was me she was after. I found myself once again explaining the situation.
“I’m applying for a student VISA for Russia and I need to provide an HIV certificate that is valid for 3 months from the point of my application.”
Like the duty nurse before her, she explained accurately and helpfully how fruitless my trip to the GUM clinic was and that I’d need to organise the test, in order to get the required certificate through my GP.
“There will be a charge of course” she said, putting the cherry on the cake.
“Oh really, even for students?”
“I think so, it would be the same if you went private. Sorry to have wasted your time!” she said.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said “I’ve got a big, purple bag of condoms...”
Rob’s adventure to get an AIDS test (for his VISA) continues next week!