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Worring myself sick
Mar 26, 2003

I work in the field of HIV and while I am aware of how the disease is transmitted I still have a huge fear about it. Recently I was helping a man remove his pants in a clinic visit. This man has AIDS. While I did not see anything on his pants he had a large sore on his leg that was oozing pus. I looked at my hands and his pants and saw nothing however I am scared that I got HIV from him. I spoke to the doctor and he told me the risk is low but I am still scared to death. I think that I have swollen glands, I don't have night sweats but I have been waking up and feeling sweaty. I'm not sure if I am making myself sick or this is real. Any suggestions. I plan to be tested soon but not sure if I can stand this fear.

Response from Dr. Horwath

The symptoms you describe are anxiety symptoms. Waking up at night, feeling sweaty, and worrying about minor physical findings are all common symptoms of anxiety.

The risk associated with the exposure you described is extremely low. The only risk from physical contact is if you have an open laceration or abrasion (on your hands, for example) and contaminated blood enters the wound. Even then, the risk is low.

It may be helpful to talk to other people who work medically with AIDS patients. Exposures of the type you describe are fairly common in medical situations. Experienced medical personnel may help to reassure you.

Perhaps the best lesson to learn from this experience is to always wear gloves when you may have exposure to HIV-infected blood or body fluids.



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