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o.k...I stopped crying and actually laughed
Jun 3, 2004

Hi Dr. Bob,

I posted a question to you the other day with the title "All I do is cry". Well I just want you to know that you brought a smile to my face this morning. In fact, I think I actually laughed (don't think I've done that in 6 weeks). Your response regarding hiv jumps was absolutely histercal and reminded me how important it is to keep our sense of humor.

I am one of the thousands of people who are sure they have ARS symptoms. I had unprotected vaginal sex exactly 5 weeks and 5 days ago (not that I'm counting or anything). The condesed version of my story is that the guy gave me herpes and now I am sure HIV as well. I have had a sore throat (with a red blistery type spot in the back of my throat)for almost three weeks now. Also have had some weird pressure in my jaw and into my ears (which I'm assuming is swollen glands) A couple days ago I noticed a bunch of tiny little white blisters on the inside of my mouth and now I'm having a weird pain in my knee which I've not had before.

I know you say every ARS case is different but I'm just wondering if you have any statistics about how common it is for ARS symptoms to last longer than 2 weeks and how common it is for not all the symptoms to appear at once.

Also, do you think this could all be herpes and/or stress related?

Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. I am going out of my mind with worry.

By the way, I do think your work is awesome and I have donated and plan to do so again in the future. No matter what my end result, you are providing a critical service and any small thing I can do to help would be my honor.

Thanks!!!!

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

You were crying for six whole weeks? Gosh, you're lucky you didn't get dehydrated wiping away all those tears. Now I do realize there can be legitimate reasons for lots of tears for instance, when Diana decided to leave The Supremes but having "ARS symptoms" should not be among them. You state you are "one of the thousands of people who are sure they have ARS symptoms." Actually, you could increase that to hundreds of thousands or millions, and still be accurate, because "ARS symptoms" are extremely common and, luckily, most often not related to HIV. As I hope you realize from reading this forum, symptoms do not equal HIV disease. I should also point out that many STDs, like herpes, for example, are much much easier to catch than HIV.

Regarding your question about Acute Retroviral Syndrome, the condition is very variable in severity, duration, and scope of symptoms. The symptoms you describe are not worrisome for HIV ARS. And if you've been crying for six weeks, I'm sure considerable stress is involved. Yes, unprotected vaginal sex does place you at risk for STDs, including herpes (as you found out) and HIV. However, statistically the odds are very much in your favor for not having contracted HIV from this single episode (less than 0.2%). I know the three-month waiting period is hell, however, crying for another six weeks isn't going to help and you'll spend a fortune having to reapply all your mascara. Now that you remember how to laugh and smile, I want you to continue to do so at least three times a day, even if you have to carry some of my wiseass posts around with you, folded in your back pocket and re-read them over and over again. If you're feeling scared and sad, just remember I've actually lived with the virus, not just with the fear of HIV, for over 13 years, and most folks wouldn't even recognize me if I weren't smiling or laughing. Yes, you should get tested three months after your potential exposure, but your level of worry is way out of proportion to your level of risk. Just try to keep things in perspective, and remember the odds are excellent you'll be WOO-HOOing in the very near future. I'm here (or in your back pocket) whenever you need me, OK?

Good luck.

Dr. Bob



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