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hiv- after six months exposure to hiv+ person's fluids with many many symptoms,desparate and suicidal

Nov 12, 1999

Hi Micheal and thank you for being so wonderfull , supporting people and coping with this horrible disease. I want to apologise in advance for the long e-mail. I am gay a and a paranoid Jew (from your family name, I guess you know what I am talking about) that always was extremely safe about this disease. My parents that passed the holocause instilled in me the idea of always being safe in life from situations. As a result, I did not even French kiss, did not fuck even with condoms unless in a realtionship when I knew the person was negative. The only sex I had in my past was recieving oral sex and thought I will be lucky and not be infected in that way. Since considered attractive had no problem to find people to do that even when some considered me boring sex. I had one incident that somebody (who I know is positive) cut my penis during oral sex and I told him I was injured, the response was you do not have open wounds and preceeded with smearing me with the semen he had on his hand directly on the cuts he created a second before. I wanted pep more than anything at that time. The person told me he callled two places and they said it was a low risk (he said they said it is one in a million-screaming at me) and when this person screams one can not argue with him I learned at that time and even more so later. He is always right. The places he calimed he called (I guess hospitals and the country health organisation) would not provide it--too low risk according to him. He would not provide me with help meaning his medication and he had the cocktail right there. After he screamed I understand that it was a lost cause trying to reason with him. Even though I thought even when it is one in a million according to him, I would take the cocktail to prevent any opportunity to get infected. Being in a state of shock and not in my country of birth, I was not sure who and what to turn to since this person was obviously not going to help, I thought of stealing his cocktail but did not do it. He also would not provide the names of the places he called after screaming it is one in a million. Being in shock I could not think about going to a hospital or doctor myself. A week later I started developing slowly a sore throat, muscle pain, lymph gland pain, white tongue, skin problems, saborea on face, acne, headaches, joint pain, lost more than 20 lbs, shortness of breath, neuropathy, two purpole signs on hands at one point that peeled off after a month so I guess not Sarcoma, constant colds and many many more symptoms. Half a year later still negative including six antigen and 2 viral loads. I read on similar cases of people testing even two years later negative, some people never develop antibodies and in one case where the person tested only 13 months later positive (before tests were negative and had about four undetectable viral loads till the 13 months). Therefore I am sure I am positive. Everyday, I am thinking of suicide. I try keeping very busy studying but am barely functioning and will satrt therpay in a few days. I am not sure how to tell my protective,holocaust surviving, very sick parents, my situation when they see, I sleep many many hours more than normal and lost so much wieght even when eating normall. I think thye have a clue but do not want to face reality. I have problems concentrating on my really difficult current studies. At this point I went back home. I really feel that it is better to commit suicide because I do not have the energy to cope anymore but since I can't do that to my parents who has been the best parents somebody could wish for, really overprotective which in a way was also not good and made me dependent but on the other hand gave me everything and anything I wanted all my life (and know that I am gay which is enough of a blow without learning that I am + although still have no antibodies, I know I am not worried well because my body totally changed since the incident) and this is why I avoid this solution. Ofcourse I think about it but actually doing it is also very scary. I am more scared of living with this disease though. I can't forgive myself for not taking care of the pep myself when the incident happened and counting on somebody that might have wanted to infect me delibrately. I have obssesive compulsive thoughts about what happened and go in my mind about what happened that day again and again and again. I can't forgive myslef for being so stupid, for meeting this specific person, when I had dates with more people, him calling me before others did which led to me meeting him, and more factors that if things did not happen in a specific order I would not meet that person, etc. This fact is sealed, it is a thing of the past but I am really obssessed about it, not willing to accept it happened already and I did nothing to take the pep. I was told all my life I am very attractive, intelligent person with two university degrees that is currently is busy with a course but for what when I do not see the point of living with such a scary thing. How can I forgive myself for knowing about the pep and not doing something to get it even if it meant stealing this person's meds that had 6 months supply or going outside of his house and asking people about the nearest hospital. Instead I was looking that evening for information about pep on the net that I could not find since I did not know it was called post exposure prophalctix (hope the spelling is right).

Response from Mr. Shernoff

I am sorry that you are so tortured by your current situation. But yes, you are the worried well, in terms of not having HIV. I don't know whether you have a physical illness that might be causing your symptoms or if your exceptionally high level of stress and anxiety are producing the variety of physical symptoms. But you sound hysterical, especially when you describe having thought about stealing another person's medication as a means of solving your own situation.

I am very struck by how passive you were in the situation you described. I do not understand if you were really so concerned why you did not immediately do the research for yourself to find out about where you might have obtained PEP, or gone to a local hospital rather than place your trust in this sexual partner to take care of you. This seems highly inconsistent with a paranoid and supposedly take charge person that you say you are.

I am also confused about why you think there is anything you need to tell your parents about this situation when most likely you are not infected. You are in serious need of good psychotherapy as obviously there is so much more going on that your recent (very low risk) exposure to HIV. I am also very confused that if you have been feeling so tortured why you waited so long to contact a therapist?

There is nothing I can tell you other than to begin working with the therapist. I bet alot of what you are experiencing has to do with unresolved guilt about being gay, and being the son of Holocaust survivors. I have seen this dynamic in several patients I have worked with. Good luck and work hard in your therapy. Michael Shernoff, MSW

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