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Desperate in Sweden
Sep 18, 2003

Hi Doctor Bob

I did something stupid last Januari I had protected sex with a girl I met at a bar in Brazil. After the sexact I recognized that the condom was broken. Already the night after Ive got diarrhea which lasted for a couple of weeks. In Februari I got something that might have been a normal flu with high fever, rashs and other symptoms. In May peripheral neuropathy started in my two last fingers on both hands - its still there now in September and its worsest at nighttime. My hands are totally numb and sometimes hurts in the morning. Still have periods with diarrhea and wakes up at nighttime because of tinnitus (also a new problem) and nighsweats even got more scared of rashes in my face and on the stomach. The latest symtom is tingling and burning sensations in my feet and hands it hurt so much so it sometimes makes me wake up at sleep. Of course I think Ive contracted hiv all the symptoms are there. But I have been tested (ELISA) after 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 months with negative results. Of course I think they are all false negative and that Im a delayed seroconverter. Ive been to a special infectiondisease doc and he thought it may be psychosomatic because of the negative ELISA the only test he performed. No test of CD4 or CD8 ratio , DNA pcr, RNA -pcr or other relevant tests. The swedish doctors have to save money for the medical care by minimize examinations and numbers of expensive bloodtests. Also visited a standard doc without mention hiv and he could not figure out what this was, just that I had some kind of infection. What to do? False negative and no help? I know you say people should not diagnose themselves from their symptoms, but what else could cause persistent distal peripheral neuropathy, night sweats, tingling and burning senzations, tinnitus and rashes for more than 7 months? Im living in a nightmare right now and dont know how to go on with my life. Ive prayed for developing antibodys and being asymtomatic for a while but nothing helps this will kill me fast. Should I get my hivstatus by donating blood at the red cross? I desperatly need your advice.

Delayed seroconverter

Response from Dr. Frascino

Dear Desperate,

First off, having "protected sex" is not doing "something stupid." Yes, it is unfortunate the condom failed, but at least you took the initial steps to make sex as safe as possible.

Next, getting symptoms (diarrhea) the "night after" cannot be related to contracting HIV. It's much too soon. It just doesn't work that way. Next, you had something that sounds like "normal flu" in Feb. OK, fine. February is flu season. That brings us to your "peripheral neuropathy." Who gave you that diagnosis? Once again, "self diagnosis" is a very bad idea. Have you been to medical school and following that done specialized training in neurology? That's what it takes to make this diagnosis! I could go on about your other symptoms, like "tinnitus," which is not even associated with HIV disease, but it's all a moot point, because you've had a negative ELISA at greater than 3 months from the time of your potential exposure. That single test is quite definitive in establishing that you are not HIV-infected. That you also had tests at 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7 months just reinforces over and over again what the 3-month test established: You are HIV-negative.

False negative? Absolutely not. Delayed seroconverter? No. If the Swedish doctors are trying to save money, why are they ordering 6 ELISA tests when one is sufficient? That's wasting money, not saving it. CD4/CD8/PCR tests are absolutely not indicated. That would be like ordering a pregnancy test on you as a male. The test will give you not useful information. We know you can't be pregnant!!! I can't tell you what's causing your symptoms over the Internet, but I can very definitely tell you what's not causing them. It's not HIV.

Could this all be psychosomatic, as the infectious diseases specialist suggested? Yes, it could. What should you do? If you or your doctor feels you have some type of neuropathy problem, then you should see a neurologist. You should also ask for a referral for counseling. You are indeed "living in a nightmare," but the nightmare has nothing to do with HIV. And just like a nightmare, when you wake up, you'll realize it was only a bad dream, no matter how real it seemed at the time.

No, this will not "kill you fast." No, you should not try to get your HIV status by donating blood. That's unconscionable!

My advice? Stop chasing an illness you could not possibly have. Get mental health counseling for your irrational fears. Wake up from your bad dream.

Dr. Bob



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