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HIV: Life or Death?

Nov 24, 2006

I'm not sure whether to post under the "Am I Infected?" forum or rather "Comments/Thanks," but here goes. . .

I am a 37-year old heterosexual, female nurse who has, heretofore been negligent in practising safe sex. "Condoms-shmondoms," I'd say, usually with a cocktail or two (no pun intended) under my belt, and with luck, all of my HIV tests have come back negative.

So why am I posting? Two reasons: a change in specialities (ER to Hematology/Oncology), and an epiphany gone wrong.

Sixteen months ago, I left my Emergency Medicine practice and began specializing in blood disorders and cancer treatment. Since then, I've met ten young, straight women and one heterosexual man who were diagnosed with AIDS only upon ending up in hospital with serious and, in three cases, life-ening illnesses.

Primary gut reaction? "That's _awful_! Just like the early eighties, when no treatment was available!"

My second thought?

"Sh#t, that could be me!"

The immediate upshot of my reality check is that, for the first time in my sexual life, I used a condom the next time I had sex with someone. Unfortunately, it broke.

And here I type, ten and a half weeks later, scared of acquiring a condition I have 0.1% of acquiring, assuming my partner was HIV+.

Assured that I'd test positive at 12 weeks, I'd begun uconsidering the myriad ways in which, as a registered nurse working in hospital, I could stockpile medications in order to end it around, oh, say New Years Day or so.

Until tonight. Honestly. I was assigned two female patients in their late forties who are dying of terminal cancers, both of whom have less than three months left to live.

"God," I thought, "I bet both of these women would rather have had new HIV diagnoses. . .at least they'd have years, decades even, to experience rather than just months."

I wrote earlier of my safe sex "epiphany gone wrong." I tried to be responsible and the damn condom broke. In writing this, I've started to reconsider.

HIV+ or not, we've all got to die sometime and, with early diagnosis and expert treatment, HIV can usually be managed as well as any other chronic medical condition, like diabetes, for instance.

If you're a "worried well," be WELL damn it, and direct your angst outward to help educate others and prevent the spread of HIV.

If you've been diagnosed with HIV, as I well may, be glad that you have access to first rate medical care and remember. . .it could always be worse.

I know that the patients I cared for tonight would envy your, and maybe our, position.

Sidebar: Dr. Bob, I've sent a donation to your website. Aside from my personal research, I've directed ALL of my AIDS patients to your website and, for those without internet access, to local libraries where they are able to access the wealth of information provided herein.

I've also given them my home telephone number in case they need outside assistance. . .I've always had a hard time with the professional boundary thing.

And BTW, thanks for the tireless efort and amazing work that you do. I'm floored!

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Epiphanized Nurse!

Thank you for taking the time to write and share your enlightenment from "condoms-schmondoms" to HIV/AIDS activist! BRAVO! BRAVISSIMO!!!

It's personal stories like yours that make other "condoms-schmondoms" folks stop and think. I have no doubt that you will save a number of lives just by personally relating your heartwarming story here.

Thank you for your donation and your compassion toward those in need. I, too, have always had difficulty with the professional boundary thing. A number of years ago many physician friends thought I was totally insane when I told them I was making home visits for AIDS patients too ill to travel to the office!

In return for your good deeds, I'm sending you my very best good-luck/good-health karma that your definitive three-month HIV test is negative. (I should also mention my good-luck karma has never failed so far!!!)

I'm honored and delighted to have you as a professional colleague in battling the pandemic.

Be well. Stay well. (And that's a doctor's order!!!)

Dr. Bob

Constant Headache/Fatigue/Patches/Lumps
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