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Persistent anxieties. Can you help?
Nov 17, 2004

Dear Dr. Horwath, I wonder if you could take the time to help me get a handle on my extreme and (I am told) irrational HIV fears. I am an otherwise healthy, productive professional who developed a habit of visiting strip clubs while out of town. Each time I return home with persistent anxieties about relatively low risk incidental contact in the club. Things like light kissing freak me out. Just last week a stripper scratched at the top of my bald head while dancing for me and I have begun to obsess on thoughts like this, "What if she touched herself (which I think she did) just prior to scratching me?" I did not notice skin broken upon return to the hotel, but I can't shake the thought. Also, I kissed the tip of her nose, which was running quite a lot I noticed later. What if her nasal fluid got on my lip? These are haunting me.

I know I can get a test in 10 weeks or so, but somehow I do not feel this is my problem. I am married and wracked with guilt. I am afraid to have sex with my wife. Should I tell her and protect her? Or does this pose an even greater risk to my marriage than my activities do to her/our health? How do I get over this anxiety?

If you could be so kind... 1. am I at risk for HIV? 2. what causes this irrational fear? 3. how do I get it to stop?

Thank you.

Response from Dr. Horwath

Studies show that AIDS caretakers, who have much closer personal contact with AIDS patients than you have described, are not at elevated risk of developing HIV infection.

The activities that you described do not put you at risk for HIV infection.



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