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Accepting neg results

Nov 11, 2006

Hi Bob

I hope this note finds you well - my heart goes out to you but your torch is shinning bright and you are an inspiration to us all.

I would like to ask a couple of questions about physical manifestations of stress and OCD.

I have suffered from both over the last 18 months and have encountered what I perceive to be a lack of understanding on the medical professions part.

Brief personal history:

18 months back I had a heterosexual encounter with a Thai sex worker. Condom broke.

I am 34, Scottish and work in Saudi Arabia where HIV is still swept under the carpet (example: my employers refused to authorize me to be tested at a Saudi hospital as a positive result would mean my dismissal from the country). Loosing your income, your career, your friends and possibly your home on top of being HIV+ places an additional stress on the situation I can assure you.

Had pretty much all the symptoms of ARS and was sincerely shocked to test negative at 4 months. Tested negative again at 9 months. Excellent. Happy, valuable lesson on life, was looking forward to continuing my all too brief existence with greater humility and understanding.

Unfortunately I have continued to have health issues from various infections to a recent case of Candidiasis where I had open sores on my scrotum, spots on my penis head and a badly cut mouth.

My doctor is now recommending I have another HIV test to be "super sure". This is the same doctor who has been counseling me for 1 year to accept the results and insisting I have OCD whilst trying to place me on anti depressants. Believe me Bob I am not depressed - never have been, no way no how - just concerned.

I will have that test when I go home at Christmas and pray it is negative 1 final time.

My point, however, is I now know that a large number of the physical conditions I self diagnosed as being symptoms of early stage HIV infection were unquestionably as a result of the incredible stress I placed upon myself over an extended period of time. Many of the readers should be reminded that severe stress can indeed lower the bodies immune system and leave it open to opportunistic infections. Highlighting this fact alone may allay someones fears as much as the anti depressant medication attempted to be dished out to me.

Secondly, and I can only talk about my personal experience, I found my doctor far too quick to pigeon hole me with all the nuts who think they have HIV from looking at a drug addict in the street. He rapidly labeled me with Compulsive Disorder and repeatedly became irritated at my obsession with HIV. Now I am getting this super sure line. I really think it is important for the readers of this site, who have genuine fears and anxieties in relation to a genuine exposure, experiencing physical symptoms, to find the right expert to counsel them. Please, shop around if you can. . It is exceptionally important that you find the right person to communicate factually, and with empathy, the correct advice for your situation.

My question is therefore as follows: would you be able to briefly explain your views on the physical effects of severe stress for our benefit.

Finally, and I hope all of you who are waiting for that 3 month window to end read this: no-one, and I mean no-one, could have been more convinced they were HIV positive than me when I went for that first test I wasnt. I was negative. The mind is an exceptionally powerful tool and capable of doing a trick on you in a heartbeat. Be brave, get tested (you either have it or you dont, that fact wont go away), get informed and find someone to talk to in the interim.

Good luck and Bob, you are a ****ing star mate.

Response from Dr. Frascino


Would I be able to briefly explain my views on the physical effects of severe stress? No, actually I would not, because the explanation would not be "brief" at all. Also, since this is an HIV/AIDS information Web site, such a discussion would be well beyond the intended scope of this forum. What I will say is that irrational HIV fears can lead to severe stress and anxiety, which in turn can lead to an impressive array of psychosomatic medical conditions. I will also say I absolutely agree with you when you say ". . . it is important for the readers of this site, who have genuine fears and anxieties in relation to a genuine exposure, experiencing physical symptoms, to find the right expert to counsel them." I should also add, all fears are "genuine" and everyone feels their potential exposure is also "genuine" and that their "physical symptoms" are indicative of HIV. Once the appropriate HIV tests have confirmed HIV is not the problem, if the person cannot or will not accept the incontestable fact that he/she is HIV negative, the answer is to refocus their treatment to address the anxiety. Your statement, "it is exceptionally important that you find the right person to communicate factually, and with empathy, the correct advice for your situation," is again right on target! The key phrase here is "for your situation." That situation is unwarranted HIV fears and anxiety and the inability to accept overwhelming evidence that HIV is not the cause of whatever symptoms the person is experiencing.

Physicians should never become irritated when someone is obsessed with the fear he may be HIV positive. Rather they need to make sure that the patient gets the help he needs for his obsession.

Good luck. Be well. Advise your company to pressure the Saudi Arabian government to become more reasonable about HIV/AIDS! It's a virus, not some mystical demon!

Dr. Bob

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