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Mental preparation for my HIV test
Dec 19, 2012

Hello,

I am young, gay and living with my parents. I am currently looking for a job.

After an event approximately seven weeks ago in which a condom broke (and I took PEP), I am extremely nervous. I had a groin rash two weeks post-exposure (which lasted two weeks), along with a sore throat, pain in the lymph nodes - and then a recurring sore throat, especially when waking up in the morning. I also had groin pain and general lethargy.

I know that one cannot diagnose HIV through symptoms, but I am extremely worried. Considering the high risk and the symptoms I recognize that there is a real risk of testing positive.

What should I keep in mind before I get tested? I don't want to tell my family (they would be completely devastated - not exaggerating). I want to mentally prepare myself before a possible diagnosis so that I would be able to cope effectively without telling others.

How can I do this? I would very much appreciate your advice.

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Thanks for writing. I'm sorry to hear about the events that have led to your needing to be tested for HIV. That fact that you took PEP is a great advantage in preventing seroconversion if you were, in fact, exposed to the HIV virus. The nature of your questions indicate that you have strong internal resources which would be helpful should you test positive.

There are several things I would recommend:

First, the symptoms you have can be caused by lots of conditions, and can be aggravated by fear. Don't jump to any conclusions (I know that can be difficult but it is extremely important).

Second, stay in the present. By that, I mean truly be as much in the moment as possible. It is natural to be dragged into the future ("what if?"). That almost always results in a great expenditure of energy (and peace of mind) with no positive effect. It is also common to get stranded in the past ("how could that have happened?). Use any tools you have for relaxation or breathing to remain grounded and centered.

Third, get good information from trusted sources. There is an abundance of inaccurate information out there, so use common sense evaluating what you learn. One thing you will discover is that a positive test now basically means a normal life span living with a chronic illness.

The sooner you know your condition the sooner you will be able to take effective action on your own behalf. People who are positive but unaware of their status pose the great risk of transmission of the virus.

Finally, get support. You mentioned doing this without telling others. That would be a mistake. Anyone testing positive needs the support of others to help them maintain emotional balance. It may not be your family (at least initially), but you will need a support system around you for the testing process (no matter what the outcome).

All the best,

-David



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