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Will I ever stop worrying?
Nov 7, 2011

Hello,

Three years ago I decided to stop having sex. I didn't want to keep on stressing about whether or not I would become infected with HIV. The opposite happened. I became a Medical Assistant and have been stuck and scratched a few times with used vaccines. I'm to the point where I freak out if I have a scratch on my hands and don't remember when it happened or how I got it. After 2 1/2 years of anxiety I decided to get tested. The results were negative, and I told myself that I wouldn't let myself continue freaking out. That lasted a total of 2 weeks when I scratched myself with a used needle while putting it into the sharps container. Although there was no blood I just can't let it go. I'm currently in school to become a RN, but I don't know how I will be able to continue working in the medical field when I'm stressing so much about becoming infected with HIV or even Hep C. My mom says I need therapy, but she just doesn't understand. Should I continue to worry? How do I continue my life without always being scared to become infected?

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Thanks for writing. There can be a considerable amount of anxiety about accidental exposure to HIV (and other viruses) among healthcare workers. The best ways to combat such fears are knowledge and, of course, universal precautions. Despite taking great care accidents do happen. In such cases, immediate occupational post exposure prophylaxis is effective.

I would bring up your concerns with the faculty in your nursing program - I'm sure your anxiety is shared by other students. If your worries are becoming prominent (and it sounds like they are) I do think counseling would be effective. You can learn various strategies to reduce the preoccupation with exposure.

Good luck.

-David



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