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Caught in the vicious cycle of testing, sex, and retesting

May 16, 2003

Mr Kull,

I'm a married guy but I can't control my desire to have sex with guys. After a few sexual encounters (each time with condom), I would be struck with the fear of getting HIV. I would swear not to cheat on my wife and go for a HIV test. This has happened many times and each time I broke my promise.

About two and a half weeks ago, I again lost control. I masturbated another guy who claimed to be HIV-. I used soap and water as lubricant and got some of his cum on my fingers. It was only after the incident that I realised I had a very small cut (about one-tenth of an inch) under the nail of the forefinger of the hand which I used to masturbate him. The cut was not bleeding but it was obviously red. I'm not sure if any of his cum got into my cut.

I guess the sight of the cut really scared me after this one time. What is my risk of being infected this way? Just to give myself temporary relief, I tested using Home Access at one week and it was negative.

I'm really very scared now and I know my fear has taken over my life. I've spent the past couple of weeks trawling through the internet and trying to match the symptoms I'm having now (achy muscles and joints, pain on both sides of the neck) with the symptoms for HIV.

I really hate myself for doing such things and sometimes feel suicidal. I don't know how to stop my liking for guys. I live in a rural part of the US and dare not go for counselling nor see the doctor for fear that everyone in town would know about it.

Thank you for reading my email. And sorry for rambling on and sounding pathetic. I would be really grateful if you could give me a reply.

Response from Mr. Kull

Hey there-- thanks for the question. It's quite courageous that you're trying to deal with such a difficult issue, so stop being so hard on yourself.

First, the good news. HIV is not known to be transmitted through mutual masturbation. The small cut under your fingernail is unlikely to be a route for infection. There is no evidence (according to the CDC) that people get infected through this route. Sexual transmission of HIV is only known to occur during anal, vaginal, and much less frequently, oral sex.

Now, the not-so-good news (although the end result WILL be quite good news). You need to get some help. Being suicidal is such a serious issue, and shouldn't be ignored. It's such a shame that you are suffering over this issue. There is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with liking guys. This is not your fault. Quite frankly, this is society's fault for making people feel bad for liking people of the same sex. You should be mad at society, not yourself.

As much as you want to make the desire you have for men go away, it's going to be quite difficult. We like what we like, and that's hard, if not impossible, to change. So don't worry about that right now. First, take care of yourself and go see a mental health professional with whom you can talk about these issues. Please try to see someone who is going to be sympathetic to the same-sex-sex stuff (getting a referral from an HIV organization or Gay/Lesbian center can be helpful). Therpists are REQUIRED to be confidential; otherwise, they are violating the law and could lose their license.

If you have a plan to take your life and feel like you are going to act on it, stop, take a deep breath, and go get some help. If you are immediate risk, you need to check yourself or get someone to help check you into a hospital.

There is hope. While I understand that this must feel like an unresolvable situation, it is not. You just need some support and compassion.

Take care of yourself-


Question about "Home Access" test

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