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Not-So-Risky Business?
Oct 6, 2000

Ryan:

It seems that the risk associated with receiving oral sex and kissing is so minimal that it is virtually impossible, yet the grave concerns among the worried well are still there. Of course, these modes must be labeled "extremely low risk" rather than "impossible" for obvious reasons, but other than the infamous case of "deep kissing," which is suspect, are there any other verifiable cases of transmission through these routes in the history of the epidemic? If not, shouldn't those who are worried for these reasons try and forget about being infected? Thanks.

Response from Mr. Kull

Thanks for bringing up this important topic. I would like to continue a dialogue with all of the visitors on this site about the issues of anxiety and "the worried well."

I do not know of any other documented cases of transmission through kissing or receiving oral sex than the infamous case to which you refer. I would agree with you that people should try to forget about being infected if they are at very low risk for infection.

That is much easier said than done.

People worry about many different things. Some worry about HIV, others worry about their physical appearance, and some worry about flying in an airplane. The focus of people's worry/anxiety can be infinite, and the degree of their anxiety can vary. The feelings and symptoms associated with anxiety tend to be quite similar. Anxiety that comes and goes and doesn't interfere with our day-to-day lives is normal and important for our survival (from an evolutionary perspective). Chronic anxiety can be a truly awful experience for a person, and some suffer needlessly from it. Various forms of treatment can often help relieve chronic anxiety (psychotherapy, medication, and cognitive-behavioral techniques).

I try not to use the "worried well" term. It seems pejorative. Anxiety is real and valid even when it seems irrational (or even annoying), and the source of the anxiety can only be understood and treated when it is examined closely, seriously, and compassionately. Telling somebody to forget about it dismisses the authenticity of their emotions.

RMK



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