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HIV/AIDS Conference in Toronto & Irrational Fears

Aug 20, 2006

Hi Dr. Bob:

I just love you and appreciate the work you do! Your humor and candor are just what people need sometimes-I am one of those people!

I just donated to your foundation and I wish I could give everything I had to fight this war against HIV/AIDS.

I have a comment and a question...first: I wanted to say that living in Toronto and working right across the street from the HIV/AIDS conference that is wrapping up this week was a mjor thing for raised so much awareness and to see all these people come from different parts of the world to help in this battle it was truly awe inspiring..

I am one of those irrational fear people...yes, I can admit it. I have been with my fiance for about a year & a half and we both tested negative about that time ago when we first got toegther and wanted to go without protection from STIs. We decided to get tested for all STIs including HIV & all were negative. Since then I have been convinced -outside the bounds of rational thought-that some possible exeperience in my or his past could lead to a HIV positive result now & as a result of my anxiety, my fiance & I decided to go get re-tested to try and quash my irrational fears. Right now I am still waiting for the test results (why do they need three whole weeks??)and I am in full blown panic mode filled daily with anxiety of being HIV positive. (Don't worry Dr. Bob-I am also seeking professional help as well. I find it hard to think of anything else and its causing major strife in my life. I can't work, I can't concentrate, I am draining my poor fiance who I think has considered smothering me with a pillow some nights!

I know its not really possible to be HIV + as we were tested when he was 3 mths from his last possible exposure (protected sex with a girl-one night stand thing) and I was 6 mths from my last possible exposure (ex boyfriend who didn't like fidelity too much) and we are monogamous & don't have any other exposure risks but sometimes I am literally overwhelmed by the anxiety of a possible positive result. This fear is completely overtaken my life!

I do wish I could get reassurance from you that the odds of my pending results will be negative and I can hopefully move on with my life and get over these fears (please don't hold back on these calming words-dr. bob...) I am really just fascinated wondering why there are so many people like me out there filled with this irrational/obsessive fear of contracting HIV? Why does this happen to certain people & not others? My fiance is not worried at all!

I mentioned the HIV/AIDS conference because as I am sitting there on my lunch hour obsessing over my doom & gloom scenario I look over at the people leaving the conference and I am also humbled by the people who ARE truly affected first-hand by this disease and want to affect changes and I know that in the end if I was to test positive my experience would not be like so many other womens' in many places who would simply suffer wihtoutany support or assistance and face stigmatization and it makes me feel ashamed for being so scared!

So simply: can I please get some reassurance and some understanding on why these irrational fears are so common so maybe I can get a grip (FINALLY) and use this energy to actually do something meaningful to help to pandemic!

Thanks Dr. Bob & PS I did look in the archives and didn't find an answer to this one :)! Keep up the wonderful work, you are an inspiration!

Response from Dr. Frascino


Too bad that ferry isn't still running between Toronto and Rochester. You could have hopped on, floated over to my hometown, gotten an HIV rapid test with results available in just 20 minutes, found out you are indeed HIV negative, yelled WOO-HOO, hopped back on the ferry and been home in time for dinner.

OK, here are the comforting words: I'm absolutely certain you are HIV negative. If what you tell me is accurate, HIV is not your problem. No way. No how.

I'm glad you are "seeking professional help," as there is no doubt you harbor unwarranted fears of being HIV positive. Treatment of your anxiety and "full blown panic mode" should be extremely beneficial in helping you confront and conquer these irrational fears.

Why do people have irrational fears? Phobias are psychological problems. HIV is a likely candidate for a phobia for many reasons, including:

1. Fear and ignorance have surrounded this illness since it was first identified 25 years ago.

2. It's incurable.

3. It's associated with marginalized populations homosexuals, intravenous drug users, the promiscuous, etc.

4. It is associated with social stigmatization and shame.

You can read more about all of this in the archives, as I've addressed these topics multiple times over the years. The important thing to know is that phobias, be they fear of heights, flying, HIV, spiders, snakes or even "snakes on the plane," are amenable to treatment with counseling. You might want to give it a try. It sure beats being smothered by your boyfriend's pillow!

Thanks for your donation! I'll look forward to WOO-HOO-ing with you very soon.

Be well. (Yes, you are indeed well!)

Dr. Bob

You and Steve....

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