In 1966, photographer Nat Finkelstein was shooting the world-famous artist, Andy Warhol, for a proposed book. As the crowd gathered, attempting to get into the shot, Warhol muttered that everyone wants to be famous. To which Finkelstein replied, “Yeah, for about fifteen minutes, Andy”; creating the infamous adage “Everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame”, or so Finkelstein likes to claim.
Life is made up of a series of interconnecting moments. For some people, these short periods of time will be famous.
For others, they will be life changing.
Last week was National HIV Testing week, during which charities and other organisations have joined forces to encourage more people to find out their HIV status. The overwhelming message is the importance of testing; without a diagnosis treatment is unable to begin.
At any other time of life, 15 minutes is a relatively short period of time. However, when waiting for a possibly life changing result, we know that 15 minutes can soon feel like 15 hours.
Sometimes all you need is a small distraction in order to stay focused and relaxed so here are some suggestions as to what you can do during those 15 long minute
- Read – whether you’re HIV positive or HIV negative, there is a wealth of information available which helps combat some of the myths around HIV as well as sexual health generally. Use this time to increase your knowledge and empower yourself to have safe, confident sex in the future. Visit lasttaboo.co.uk
- Stretch and breath – stretching for just 15 minutes helps facilitate the flow of blood throughout your body; improving your mental focus.
- Call a friend – despite moving drastically forward in the perception of HIV over the past 30 years, there is still a level of stigma associated with contracting the virus. Some people will choose to do a self test in the privacy of their own home, without discussing with anyone else. We encourage you to think about how you will feel and if appropriate for you, to speak with your partner, family member or friend before or during performing the test. It’s up to you whether or not you want to be alone.
- Cook – make yourself something quick and simple – the aim here is not a Michelin starred meal but something which will distract you for the next 15 minutes as your HIV self test runs.
- Write – jot down how you feel, reflect on the experience and what you’ve learned from taking the test. You can choose whether to keep this to yourself, to remind you of your feelings or use them to provide information to another person who is considering self testing for HIV. The independent social enterprise PEBL, provides a platform for those who are interested in HIV and self testing, to share their experiences and have a conversation.
- Go for a walk – some feedback we receive from people who have taken a self-test is the anxiety that can be anxiety during the 15 minutes of waiting for their result. Get yourself out of the house and leave your test there. Walk around the block and get some fresh air. It’s a good chance to think calmly about how you might feel about your result, both positive and negative.
- Breath deep – if walking isn’t your thing, then try relaxed, deep breathing or meditation which have been proven as one of the best ways to relieve stress. There are plenty of mobile apps which provide you with short, walkthroughs to help you centre your mind.
- Plan – whether you have a positive or negative result, there is always a next step. Use this 15 minutes to plan what happens next for each scenario. If positive, you will need to get a confirmation test, with a sexual health clinic being the best place to do that. There are also a huge range of HIV forums and support groups available and the value of peer support cannot be underestimated. If your result is negative, it’s a time to feel empowered and really take responsibility for your sexual health. Free condoms are available from a wide range of outlets or you can purchase here or from the NHS Freedoms shop
- Clean your house – split your household chores into 15 minutes slots and then pick one to carry out. Again, this is about distraction, not cleaning to six star service levels.
- Do the admin – we all have those niggling little tasks which need doing though we never seem to have the time. Make use of your fifteen minutes by crossing two or three off the ever increasing to-do list
- Have a clear out – of old clothes or a cupboard. Getting things in order can be really therapeutic
- Watch an inspiring TED Talk – there are millions of TED Talks available for free online from what LGBT life is like around the world, to the coolest animal you know nothing about and the future of flying robots. No matter what your interest, there’s a talk for you so visit Ted [link] now, pick a theme and set the duration to 12 – 18 minutes. Then see what comes up…
- Solve a Rubik’s Cube – the average time to solve a rubik’s cube is 2 – 3 minutes (not me!), so in fifteen minutes you might achieve five to six sets…
- Have a shower - the artist Picasso claims to have had the best ideas in the shower so again this can give you some time to think and relax. You’ll feel re-invigorated and ready to face the outcome of your test with a clean body and fresh mind. The fact you’ll be in the bathroom covered in soap will also offset the temptation for you to stand and stare at the test for 15 minutes!
- Don’t panic – the most important thing about HIV is that once you know your status, you’ll be able to move forward. You’ve made the very sensible decision of testing to find this out. HIV is not curable but it is manageable – a good friend of ours describes HIV as being life changing not life limiting. With treatment started at the right time, a person’s viral load (the amount of virus in their blood) can be brought down to being undetectable. This means three is hardly any risk of onward transmission and no damage is done to their immune system so life expectancy is the same as someone without HIV. It’s so important to remember that HIV is three letters and not a sentence and regardless of your result there are a wide range of people to help you plan the next steps.
Feel free to give your own suggestions....