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Feb 24, 2011

Hello Dr. Fawcett, I have suffered from paranoid schizophrenia since I got out of the marine corps in 1994. I was living on and off my meds for years and while off my meds i was delusional, hallucinating and very compulsive and out of control so I engaged in risky behavior and got drunk to numb out everything. Then I found out in 2002 I was hiv positive so I'm wondering if you think being a paranoid schizophrenic caused me to get hiv? All this time later I found out that I can file a disability claim with the VA because the schizophrenia started while I was in the marines but I had to tell them I was hiv positive. All the doctors think I'm filing a claim because I'm hiv. I don't really know what caused the mental breakdown. I think it was too much pressure for my mind to take. Once they see that I'm hiv they will probably think this guy is gay seeking benefits for hiv but I hope I'm wrong. I keep thinking that if I wasn't schizophrenic that I wouldn't have got hiv. Maybe it's just my paranoia or messed up thinking. The more I read about hiv and other diseases like hep c the more paranoid i become. I take atripila for hiv and that works good. Ok thanks for any advice you could give me because I don't talk with anyone besides my doctors.

Take care and thanks for all your help and info on the site.

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Schizophrenia is a complex disorder for which there is no single or simple cause. It is becoming clear that it has a genetic component that, when combined with psychosocial stressors, can result in various sets of symptoms that we call schizophrenia. As in your case, these symptoms frequently begin to appear among young adults during times of stress such as serving in the military or even attending college. In any case, the important thing for you is that it was diagnosed and is now being treated. There are many medications that do a good job controlling the symptoms of schizophrenia, which is especially vital in your case because of the trust and communication you need with your HIV doctors. Controlling your schizophrenia also lets you keep your life well organized so you can remain compliant with your HIV meds and other health-related activities. While schizophrenia likely contributed to risky behaviors in the past, the important thing now is that you remain in care. Both schizophrenia and HIV could make you eligible for disability, although it usually is a long process that requires appeals. I encourage you to speak with your doctors or other advocates (like case workers) to help you with the process of applying for disability. It doesn't matter how or when you got either one - you are entitled to care and services. Keep taking your medications and maintain your network of healthcare providers whom you trust even if your mind sometimes kicks up suspicions. Thanks for writing and take care.

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