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Another irrational idiot
May 8, 2006

Dear Dr Bob

I stumbled (I think that's an appropriate description)across your forum a few days ago during a general panic to try to find out more about my 'symptoms'. Since then I have spent a long time checking out the site. What a fantastic place and what a compassionate man you are.

Anyway here's my story. About 18 montns ago during a particularly rocky patch in my marriage I started visiting sex workers. Mostly the same girl in a nice set up but others as well. Always protected vaginal sex and usually (but not always) protected oral. Giving 3 times only. 4 weeks ago I came to my senses. I got very drunk and had protected oral and vaginal sex with a different girl. When I recovered from my hangover (about 2 days later!)I wondered what the hell I'd been doing. I have a lovely wife and children who mean more to me than anything and I have put us all at risk.

Previously I had not even considered the risks but I am now in major panic mode despite reading many other stories on your pages. I started with headaches and dizziness followed by pins and needles. I have a cold but it seems like a normal one. I have developed dull pains in my groin shoulders and neck and the odd zit. I have convinced myself I have HIV. I can't think about anything else. I can't sleep and my home and work life are suffering badly. My stomach is churning constantly - I assume this is anxiety. My mind is playing tricks as I now doubt my memory as to whether a condom was used at all in the recent episode. I have never felt this bad in my life and when you add into that the extreme guilt and shame I'm feeling my stress levels are through the roof. I can't tell my wife as this will kill my now much stronger marriage (although no sex during this period so no concerns there) but she knows something is wrong. I have no idea how I will make it through the next 2 months assuming I decide to get tested at all. Please answer Dr Bob. What are my chances? I will donate whether you answer or not as you provide such a wonderful service. Whilst I am not that religious I have promised the man upstairs I will donate big if I get through this. I have certainly learnt a very difficult lesson. Thanks a million. Chris

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi Chris,

I'm glad you stumbled across my forum and that you have found the information encouraging.

Your HIV risk is negligible to nonexistent. Protected sex is indeed protected, if the latex condom is used properly and does not fail. Oral sex carries a minimal risk for HIV transmission.

Your symptoms are not consistent with or suggestive of HIV disease; however, they are very consistent with anxiety, stress, guilt and depression.

My recommendations include:

1. Level with your wife. Yes, I realize this will not be easy; however, it's not only the best way to cope with your "extreme guilt" and anxiety, it's also the right thing to do. Consider showing your wife this post and my response. Your love and concern for your wife and family come shining through in your comments. We are all human. That means we all make mistakes even yours truly! The important thing is that we recognize our mistakes, accept the consequences of our actions and learn from our indiscretions. There is no doubt you have done this.

2. If you are worried (and clearly you are) and feel that you've placed yourself at risk for HIV, get HIV tested three months after your last potential exposure. Use latex condoms with your wife until your negative status is reconfirmed. The odds are astronomically in your favor that you did not contract the virus from the activities you described.

Thank you for your offer to make a donation to The Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation (www.concertedeffort.org). Showing generosity to those struggling with the challenges of HIV/AIDS attests to your compassionate nature. On behalf of the many lives that will be touched by your one gift, please accept my heartfelt thanks.

Finally, "Chris's wife," if you are reading this, you obviously know "something is wrong" (according to Chris). I hope you also realize the depth of Chris's concern for you and your family. Successful relationships are built on trust and veracity. Facing challenges together can strengthen your bond. I wish you both health and happiness.

Chris, despite your fears and belief that you may have contracted the virus, I'm quite confident you have not. I'll send my best good-luck/good-health karma that your three-month definitive test is negative.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob



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