here, there, everywhere


In Middle East, Syria on February 5, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Everyone who wants to live and work in Syria needs to get an AIDS test done.  There are only two places in the country where you can get the test – one in Damascus, one in Homs.  Two weeks ago the Iraqi president visited with the Syrian president and requested that all Iraqis be sent back to Iraq within 15 days if they can’t get their test completed.  This means every morning before 8am there is a huge lineup at the clinic, maybe 500 people scrambling to get their test so they can stay.  This is in addition to all the Syrians and other foreigners who are there for the same thing.

This morning I arrived at 8am and stood at the front of the line for foreigners, waiting to throw my passport through the gate to the men in the white coats.  The first man was relatively gentle and pleasant, the second yelled and screamed until his face turned red and he sounded like he’d either pass a kidney stone or explode.  I got my passport through on the first try and then stood in the cold and mud for the next three and half hours as relatively gentle man let Syrians jump the queue.  Eventually he yelled out my name and I was able to get inside the gate and wait for another hour and a half.

As I was at the front of the line this time, I was able to watch yelling man take blood samples.  First he yelled at whoever was in the chair, grabbed their left arm and tied the rubber hose around it.  If he couldn’t find the vein in 2 seconds, he’d rip the tube off, grab the right arm and give that a try.  If no vein there, tube off, wrapped on wrist, a little bit more yelling, then BAM, jab into the back of the hand.  If he was lucky he’d hit a vein, but sometimes it looked like he was pulling up muscle or marrow.  I was lucky and ended up with a soft speaking and polite man who managed to get my vein on the first go.  A bit of bruising but at least no emotional scarring.

Tomorrow I go back to get the results – they’d better be negative.

  1. Ok, let’s make this very clear: the “andrew” who posted the previous comment was DEFINITELY NOT her brother.You can breathe easy now.

  2. Uh Al – I’ve got something to tell you … I should have told you earlier. Remember that drunken night of debauchery we had ?….

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