The AIDS test
The Syrian government recently decided to allow Fulbright students to register as auditors at Damascus University so that we may apply for residency permits. The first step in that process is the government-administered AIDS test. All foreigners seeking residency must be cleared of AIDS. Results of tests from other countries are not accepted.
This morning, we crammed into a room in a building that is dedicated to testing foreigners for AIDS. Outside, were several hundred people, including Iraqis fleeing the war, and a couple Russian prostitutes.
A man recorded our names by hand into a log book, gluing our passport-size photos next to each entry. The needles came from sealed plastic packaging, a good sign. A dead cricket was in the trashcan, which was used for regular garbage, as well as medical waste. Thankfully, the man who drew blood was efficient.
An American friend, who went separately, was less fortunate. The nurse probed her arm with a needle ten times before deciding, as my friend originally suggested, to draw blood from a vein on top of her hand.
The results come back in two days.