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HIV positive but all in my head!

Sep 14, 2004

I tested HIV positive last month. I just had an idea. What if the disease is all in my head? Couldn't stress cause an antibody positive test result? After all, I hear experts on this forum tell people all the time that all kinds of symptoms could be related to stress and don't necessarily mean that HIV infection has actually taken place. Well how do we know that stress cannot also cause the body to produce certain antibodies? We don't know that at all. I'm going to live my life as if I don't have HIV at all. That means sleeping with people as if I'm "clean." Because let's face it, I AM clean, aren't I? From a certain point of view? And if the people I sleep with also test positive for HIV, then they are simply "catching" my stress, which in turn is causing their antibody positive results. The mind is indeed a powerful tool, and stress can cause all sorts of confusion in people. Who knows that better than you?

Response from Dr. Horwath

I think you have a misunderstanding about the role of anxiety in causing symptoms. Sometimes people get a negative test for HIV antibodies, but have difficulty accepting the result due to their anxiety about HIV infection and its consequences. Some people develop physical symptoms due to anxiety (rashes, sweats, dry mouth, gastrointestinal problems, etc.), and then interpret these symptoms as evidence of HIV infection, when they are only signs of anxiety.

However, anxiety and stress cannot cause a positive antibody response on an ELISA and Western blot test. The Western blot, in particular, is a highly specific test and non-specific stress cannot cause a false positive result.

You are misleading yourself and your sexual partners if you act "as if" you are HIV negative while you know that you have tested positive. This is all the more reason that everyone who is reading this should be aware that they should practice safe sex all the time and not rely on your partner's assurance that they are negative.

Thinking about death every day
What was I thinking

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