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.Still negative by anxious, tired and confused
Dec 2, 2012

Hello David,

I'll keep this as short as I can. Back in Oct 2010, I had brief unprotected sex with a women of unknown status. Seven to ten days after that, I fell ill with tonsillitis and became extremely anxious and deeply stressed. I immediately linked it to ARS symptoms and entered a whirlwind of extreme obsession and fear of HIV. A year after the exposure date (and lots of emotional pain), I bit the bullet and had a HIV antibody screening and antigen test. The results all came back negative.

Initially I was relieved but for some reason beyond my knowledge my mind is playing tricks on me. I am questioning the test, wondering if my tonsillitis was ARS symptoms, etc., etc. The old, life-changing fear is back! I now have a wife (who I have been with since Nov, 2010) and a child on the way. She has also tested negative with routine pregnancy testing. I remain so scared that I'm actually infected, and that one day I will pass it on to her.

Do I need to re-test? Is there any way the virus could have been suppressed/lay dormant in my body?

I apologize in advance if these seem silly questions. Deep down I know the answers but I have nobody to speak to about it. As long as they're in my head it's a never ending battle that is tiring, upsetting and scary.

I await your valued opinion.

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Thanks for writing. As you know from first-hand experience, HIV-anxiety can seriously undermine peace of mind. When it becomes extreme, people can strongly feel that they are infected, in some cases refusing to believe the lab tests or suspecting that the samples were confused. In such cases no amount of objective data can satisfy the obsession.

It is normal to be concerned about your wife (although you appear to have no risk). Although there have been a few (very few) cases of delayed seroconversion, a negative test a year after exposure is definitive. If it would provide relief you should get tested once more. If you still can't let go of the anxiety after that, I would recommend speaking to a counselor about tools to help you get some relief from the obsessive worry.

Take care,

-David



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