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scared. confused. stressed. worried. hurting.

May 5, 2007

Dear Dr. Bob,

I am desperately hoping that you will be able to respond to my email. I am a 30 year old hetero male that had a fair share of risky (read: unprotected) events during my college and early 20s years. Foolishly, I never tested as I (a) was pretty clueless and naive and (b) never recall experiencing anything that alerted me to go get tested. Fast forward 5-10 years.....

I am almost 31 now, and have a 2.5 year old son that was treated for a bout with pneumonia about 3.5 weeks ago. At first I didn't think anything of it however, something in me started researching pneumonia online. Quickly I was lead to webpages referencing HIV/AIDS. I started FREAKING out, and started researching symptoms of HIV in adults. I was surprised to learn of a burning/tingling sensation in the feet, legs, and hands (neuropathy) as one, this is something I thought I had experienced on occasion. I do actually have HSV (I don't get severe outbreaks, but rather mild, yet I'd say more frequent, ones), and always just figured it was something related to that and never thought much of it.

Within literally a day or two of researching HIV symptoms, I woke up in the middle of the night sweating. This now has happened ather frequently since it first started. Also, a few days later, I experienced some pretty major rumbling in my stomach. I ended up with diarrhea one day, but took a bunch of pepto-bismol to quell the upset stomach and diarrhea. Now, I have been constipated for about one full week with barely any BMs in a week. Despite that, I have lost almost 7-8 pounds in that time, yet I have been eating actually pretty normally.

I am freaking out, not just for me, but obviously for fear of having the potential of possibly infecting my wife and son as well, if in fact I am HIV+. I have spent literally all day long for the past 2 weeks researching and "symptom surfing"...and oh yes, being stressed and anxious beyond belief. I am writing you wondering ho quickly would all of these symptoms (night sweats, GI issues, wieght loss) come on in the symptomatic HIV stage? I literally felt fine 3 weeks ago. Now I feel like a mess with the anxiety, sweats, weight loss, and constipation. Can the symptomatic stage just set in literally at the snap of a finger like it seems to have done for me? Or do you think it's possible that I am advanced in my HIV status and am coming down with an opportunistic infection?

I know you cannot diagnose me online, and I have sent in the Home Access test and await the result. Unfortunately, no place where I live does the rapid test anonymously. I am so scared. I know I have HIV.

thanks for your time,

never the same

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Scared, Confused, Stressed, Worried and Hurting,

So let me see if I understand your question correctly. You want to know if (A) the symptomatic stage of HIV can just set in literally at the snap of a finger, like it seems to have done for you or (B) you are in the advanced stage of HIV and coming down with an opportunistic infection.

Have I got that about right??? Well, the answer is "C": none of the above.

Dude, you describe yourself as clueless and nave in your twenties. Well, apparently things haven't improved much in your third decade. Yes, your amorous activities of the past were unprotected and consequently you placed yourself at some degree of risk for STDs, including HIV. That being the case, what should be your logical next step? Freaking out a decade later when your 2.5-year-old son has a bout of pneumonia and you decide to "symptom surf" your way into Worried Well Hell? That's not exactly logical or helpful. I'm glad you've ordered a Home Access test. Most likely the results of your test will be negative. Statistically the odds are astronomically in your favor.

Your symptoms are not suggestive of or worrisome for HIV/AIDS. They are, however, quite characteristic of anxiety. Dude, relax! You are quickly driving yourself 'round the bend, as they say in Australia. If you need help controlling your anxiety while waiting for your test result, see your doctor. I also suggest you discuss your fears with your wife and, if necessary, a therapist. Your "symptoms" will magically disappear just as mysteriously and quickly as they materialized, once you realize you are HIV negative.

There really was no reason for you to be clueless, nave (or reckless) in your twenties and there certainly is even less reason now. HIV/AIDS has been with us since the early 80s! Spend some time reviewing the wealth of information about HIV and HIV transmission that can be easily accessed on this site, its archives and related links. Get informed and do your part to inform others. Hopefully, by your efforts, you can spare someone else from becoming "scared, confused, stressed, worried and hurting!"

Good luck!

Dr. Bob



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