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encouraging their behavior...
Dec 7, 2000

I would like to thank you for all the advice that you dispense on this board, as I am sure it has helped many people. Though I would like to give a word of caution. I am sure you have noticed that many people are asking about the possibility of HIV infection in situations that would make it difficult to catch even a simple cold from. It's important to know that these people, while they probably don't suffer from an extensive mental disorder, their problems typically aren't relieved by your answers. Don't take this the wrong way - keep up the fine work by all means, but it has been my experience that most of these people, of which I have dealt with a few, suffer mostly from mild OCD, depression, general anxiety, or more seriously, hypochondria. It would be wise; therefore, to suggest that these people seek professional counseling to curtail their suffering. It is encouraging to note that these people usually do recover from their fears, usually totally, unfortunately, they will tend to suffer greatly while they are going through them. I had one patient that didn't eat for over a month, and the symptoms of malnutrition began to mimic those of HIV (fatigue, mouth sores, frequent illness, loss stool). I also had another patient who was so convinced that he had the disease he would often 'make up symptoms' whenever he noticed something unusual (which in reality were perfectly normal) about his body. And what is more common is I find patients willing to spend upward of 3,000 dollars on medical tests, or have their blood drawn over 15 times in the course of four months and NEVER stop doubting they were infected. This condition isn't isolated to HIV, of course, but to people who have sexual concerns. They usually focus on incurable problems at that, I had a 19 year old that believed he had penile cancer, which, if you know anything about the disorder, it occurs almost exclusively in men over the age of 50 and is among one of the most rare cancers found in men. Tell these people to get help immediately. Many therapists are willing to work with patients to get the help they need, some very reputable and very good therapists will work with patients for as low as 35 dollars per hour (I do not charge for people in college or who are unable to make any sufficient contribution). Also note, that paying low doesn't mean the therapist will slant in anyway his quality of service, nor will he or she compromise the confidentiality of the sessions.

Please help these people both by telling them they may want to seek help if they are not satisfied with your response and STRONGLY discourage using the internet for further advice, as often enough that is what contributes to so much of their anxiety. Also, if they have these problems, they should talk to a counselor at the location where they are tested for HIV/AIDS for contact information about counselors who would be willing to work with them.

Thanks for you time.

Response from Mr. Kull

Thanks for your insightful input. I am posting your message because observations like yours reminds us all of the complexity of this process.

RMK



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