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I keep seeing your face!!
Jun 29, 2001

I was sitting in my doctors office yesterday and looked down at a magazine and saw your face. I remembered seeing you here at the body. Anyway, you seem like a very kind person to answer questions of the worried well. I have not asked you any questions previously but, I do hope you can help me.

I had an exposure 6 months ago and have tested negative by Elisa every 30 days all the way up to the 6 month mark. I also had a Chiron bdna<50 done at 22 weeks due to ongoing swollen glands throughout my body, sore throat, rash on my arms almost everyday and a thick coating on the back of my tongue. I have been to way too many doctors and no one can seem to figure out what is wrong. I'm thinking maybe it's a strain not detectable by the elisa. I found out that the person I was exposed to travels out of the country frequently. (I think mostly to Europe). What are the chances of the elisa not picking up strains from that part of the world?? Should I insist on some specific testing to rule out possible rare types??? I'm at my end here and so is my family. I am a mother and find it hard to keep on going each day worrying that I am infected and it cannot be detected on our us assays.

PLEASE PLEASE, Give me your honest opinion!!

Sincerly, Doomed to worry forever!!

Response from Dr. Frascino

Dear Doomed to Worry Forever,

Yep, that was me on the cover of the magazine. I didn't realize it was going to be such a close-up shot! ("Mr. DeMille, I'm not ready for my close-up!") Questions about possible infection are best handled in our expert forum on Safe Sex and HIV Prevention, but since you've been seeing me everywhere lately, let me try to help. Actually, the answer is right there in your question. Your exposure was over 6 months ago; you've had negative ELISAs every 30 days for 6 months; you had a negative bDNA (viral load test) at 22 weeks; and you've been to "way too many doctors and no one seems to figure out what is wrong." Our current screening tests can pick up HIV1 and HIV2. What are the chances the ELISAs and bDNA are missing an infection? Extremely, extremely small. I would say infinitesimal! I can't tell you exactly what's causing your symptoms, but I can say that it's not what you're most worried about! Coated tongue, a rash on your arms, sore throat, and swollen glands throughout your body are really not indicative of HIV infections from an exposure 6 months ago. HIV isn't making you sick, but worrying about HIV is making you quite miserable. You don't need additional HIV tests; you need a way to cope with feelings that are overwhelming your ability to function normally. You have done everything you can to be assured that HIV is not causing your symptoms. Now, it's time to seek counseling to help you cope with your fears. My honest opinion? You are certainly not "doomed" and it's my sincere hope that you will not "worry forever."

Best of luck

Dr. Bob


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