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Im freaking out

Jul 9, 2006

Dr. Frascino, I know I don't have to say this, but you are the sh*t and I love you! Your "bedside manner" is also much better than some of your predecessors. Anyways, the reason that I am writing is because some time ago I developed a severe headache, swollen lymph nodes in my neck, throat and groin, fever, night sweats and weight loss. I also had a very slight sore throat, fatigue and joint & muscle pain. That was about 2.5 months ago. Since that time most of those symptoms have gone with the exception of the lymph nodes in my neck and one smaller lymph node on the left side of my groin. This has been accompanied by pain in my left leg and recently joint pain in my ankle, knee and hip. The lymph nodes in my neck seem to come and go, in particular one on the back left side of my neck which had almost completely disappeared as of last week, but seems to have reemerged within the last few days. I should preface this by saying that although I have never had intercourse (unsafe or otherwise) I have performed oral sex and mutual masturbation on a few male partners with unknown status (one instance of which occured just about 3 weeks before the initial symptoms surfaced). Shortly after these symptoms surfaced, I also developed what appeared to small red bumps and a small painless "sore" (although I hesitate to refer to it as such) on the tip of my penis. These were accompanied by redness and itching of my foreskin. I have also noticed that my tongue seems to be a bit on the whitish side although there are no sores present anywhere in my mouth. I visited a doctor on two occassions and was told that I may have just picked up some sort of virus due to traveling, and that it wasn't much to worry about. I guess I am most worried about the fact that the lymph nodes haven't yet gone away and this leads me to believe that I am infected with something serious. At this point I have spent what is probably an unreasonably high amount of time surfing the internet trying to diagnose my own symptoms, and I have no idea what the hell it could be. Some information that I have seen seems to indicate mono but the symptoms also seem to be synonymous with Acute HIV infection. I've sort of come to grips with the fact that it could very wel be HIV so I am not as devistated as I was a little while ago, but I am still very afraid and a bit ashamed to visit a doctor. I go through ups and downs where I think Im ok, and other times where I get really depressed almost to the point of being immobilized. Anyways, so I guess my question is 1) Do you think that my sexual behaviour is of the sort that would put me at risk for infection. 2) Are these symptoms consistent with HIV infection, acute or otherwise 3) Are they, in your mind, symptomatic of another particular infection/disease. 4) How would you suggest I proceed at this point.

I know you've helped to allay the fears of other people and I would greatly appreciate it if you would give me any kind of feedback, be it negative or positive. I just really need to know what to do b/c I really don't want this to continue to plague my mind and my life. (and I promise that I will make a donation).

Thanks so much & keep up the good work. The world needs more people like yourself!

Response from Dr. Frascino


I'll proceed directly to your specific question and save the small talk for the end, OK?

1. Oral sex carries a very low risk for potential HIV transmission. Mutual masturbation is not considered a risk for HIV transmission.

2. Nope!

3. Your symptoms are very nonspecific and for me to list potential diagnoses would serve no purpose and maybe make this worse, as you'd have all sorts of new possibilities to worry about. Certainly "painless sores" on the penis should be evaluated for possible syphilis or other STDs. I assume your two visits to your doctor already did this. If not, you should have an STD screen.

4. An STD screen now and an HIV test at the three-month mark are all that's needed from an infectious-diseases standpoint.

You should also consider some counseling to help address your completely unwarranted fears that you are "infected with something serious". Your fears are irrational. Spending "unreasonably high amounts of time surfing the internet trying to diagnose (your) own symptoms" isn't helping either. In fact, it's probably making things worse. That you are at times "really depressed almost to the point of being immobilized" clearly indicates you need psychological help.

Good luck! Feel better, OK?

Dr. Bob

Test results
Muddied waters...

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