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Anxiety Disorder and HIV
Nov 18, 2011

Hi - I guess I am one of many facing a great deal of anxiety over HIV. I am a 32 year old female. Two weeks ago I had a weekend affair with a friend of mine that I have known for a long time, in Florida. He was my second partner in my life. He told me he had been checked every year and I trusted him. We had unprotected vaginal and oral sex.

I came home with incredible fear and anxiety. How do you ever really know about someone for sure. I got sick - kind of flu like symptoms and a UTI three days after coming home. I was given antibiotics for the UTI, which cleared up quickly, but I continued to have a white furry tongue and very sore throat. I told my friend and he felt horrible for scaring me in any way and went to the clinic for an HIV test on Tuesday. He should get his results within the next week. I know your brain can have incredible power over symptoms and your fear-based reactions to them can make them a great deal worse. I got a really sore throat four days after we had had sex, then a slight fever. The sore throat got so painful I could barely swallow. I had a couple of nights with night sweats. Yesterday I went to the clinic and the doctor put me on some pretty powerful antibiotics for possible Strep Throat. As soon as I started taking them my throat started feeling better. This morning, though, I noticed a slight rash on my upper back, behind my neck and upper shoulders. It kind of looks like a bit of acne or heat rash. I am really scared that this might be a seroconversion rash.

I know the only answer is to test but I'm just so full of anxiety. And I can't test till minimum of 28 days post-exposure - not for another two weeks. We only have the 4th generation tests in Canada - no Rapid tests.

So I was wondering - if I do have HIV and my symptoms are seroconversion. What would my life expectancy be? Can I still take care of my three year old daughter? Can I have a sex life or boyfriend partner?

I really do believe I have an anxiety disorder. I don't want to keep worrying about the "mights" in my life I want to live in the moment. Do you have any suggestions as to what first steps I can take to get help with anxiety? I take hot yoga twice a week and go to a meditation class - just thinking I need more help.

Thank you so much for your time.

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Thanks for writing. I'm not quite sure of the timeline but it seems that your symptoms appeared too soon after exposure to be indicative of seroconversion. The best reassurance will be a test. If you friend's test comes back positive, you should follow up with other tests through the six month mark.

Should you actually seroconvert, you can lead a very full life for a very long time, including caring for your daughter as well as a sex life and partner. I think it's highly improbable you were exposed, but it is plausible. Here is a link to TheBody's "Just Diagnosed Resource Center" which has some useful information. Given your anxiety, however, I would be cautious about too much web-based research. It's a big internet and it's possible to get bad information and really scare yourself.

You are correct that the mind and body are powerfully connectioned. Just as the "placebo effect" can sometimes produce signs of healing, our brains can create symptoms out of fear. You are taking some important steps with the bikram yoga and a meditation class. You might also consider psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches you to identify and change "self talk," is particularly effective for anxiety. If that is not effective you might speak to your physician about an anti-anxiety medication, although I would give the other methods a chance to work first.

Be well.

-David



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