Finally found courage to have test after seven years!
Jun 3, 2007
Dear Dr Bob,
I hope you are well.
I'll get to the point straight-away: I've just returned from the hospital after discovering that after 7 and a half years of anxiety and panic, following a stupid encounter with a sex worker (protected with condom), that I am officially HIV NEGATIVE!
Over the years, I have read the messages on your forums and have took a real interest in your responses. The one thing that you have said to people experiencing health problems which has stuck in my mind has been that symptoms do not mean anything - having a test is the only way to know for sure.
It was September 1999 that I stupidly went with a "lady of the night" whilst on holiday abroad. I got loads of symptoms, such as swollen glands, feeling hot all the time, coughs, phlegm, floaters, numbness etc etc... You name it, I'd got it! As all of this started a few weeks later I immediately assumed that what I was experiencing was seroconversion. Combine this with reading up on various internet sites (not of The Body's calibre) which tended to shout out that you probably are positive only made things worse for me.
The reason why I was worrying myself so much was down to the fact that, although it was a protected encounter, I couldn't get the idea out of my head that maybe I had got some of the secretions from the woman into the end of my penis whilst I was cleaning up afterwards. I was replaying and replaying the whole episode in my head trying to work out if I had cleaned myself up with tissues that then came into contact with any mucous membranes. Although it was the end of the night, I knew what I was doing: I wasn't drunk - I'd managed to sober-up by then (for instance I can remember that George Michael's Greatest Hits were playing on the sound system of the adjoining bar! Good or bad memory - although it was his solo stuff?!)
I had tried my best to get the whole thing out of my head over the years following, but really not successfully - it always remained there, hiding in the wings ready to jump out as soon as something vaguely related was mentioned or read.
It all came to a head when I was diagnosed with HPV in 2005 which had affected my "bottom area" internally, which needed to be operated on. I had never been into hospital for any operation in my life so this was making me panic a great deal on its own. I then started reading that such problems are quite common in HIV+ people and therefore this opened the floodgates of worry. Although I had managed to keep my worries out of the way some of the time before, hearing this news just made it the number one thought in my head.
I eventually informed my wife (who I hadn't been with in 1999) about the full reasons behind my fears (up until this point I had just said that I'd had an encounter with someone whilst away with my friends which had got me worrying about HIV). I finally told her that it was down to an encounter which involved paying for sex, just so she knew the full story behind my anxiety. My wife was 100% with me on it and talked it through and she herself was convinced from the start that I didn't have anything to worry about. However, I (Mr Worry-about-everything) could not fully appreciate this. It was always a case of her calming me down and then within an hour or so, the fears would gradually come back.
With having to call to and from the hospital for treatment of various forms - the op itself and follow-up creams, I finally decided to speak with an Health Advisor who listened to my fears and then proceeded to explain that my fears really weren't warranted based on the details I had given. In total I spent about 3 hours talking things through and I really thank her from the bottom of my heart for the way she dealt with me. She explained that although it was 99.9% certain I was OK, I could still have a test to confirm this. With me being the eternal pessimist, I considered a 0.1% chance of being positive something to concern me!
She gave me a few days to go away and think about it, and when I returned I had finally convinced myself to go ahead and have the test. I think the main fear with all of this was the fact that going for a blood test for THAT PARTICULAR reason made it scarier - some sort of stigma attached to it? I don't know... It was that fact alone that always made me not want to do it. If someone had said a regular blood test could detect HIV anti-bodies then I maybe would have found out all was OK long before now.
The last few days have been a nightmare. I have been trying to concentrate on the good things such as the fact that the H.A. had said there was a 99.9% chance of being OK etc, but then contrasting against this were the facts that I had had such "strange" early and on-going symptoms and then my visits to the hospital for the HPV. I didn't know how to think about things properly!
Well, my attempts to keep this message short have failed, but I believe that after 7 years of anxiety and needless worry, I owe it to everyone reading this. I just want to make it clear that if anyone is worried about HIV infection and they are past the 12 week mark (7 years is taking it a bit too far!) then PLEASE JUST GO FOR A TEST.
I would also like to thank you Dr Bob for taking time to reply to so many messages and putting people in the know as much as you can. Your replies to similar problems as mine, always gave me the feeling of "hey - everything should be ok". It's just a shame that it has taken me all this time to pluck up the courage to go for the test to actually confirm my status.
I have always promised myself that I would make a donation to your fund once I had been for a test, and this is something I am going to do as I feel that on-going support is required for your foundation. Will I have to calculate interest for seven years and add this on to my total?!! :-)
Anyway, take care Doctor and I thank you so very much.
United Kingdom Man
Response from Dr. Frascino
Hello United Kingdom Man,
Thanks for your kind words and for taking the time to write in and share your story. And also thanks for your donation. All are warmly appreciated. WOO-HOO and congratulations on finally escaping your worried-well hell. I'm confident testimonials like yours help others who are still suffering (needlessly).
One other thing you can be thankful for: the George Michael songs were his solo stuff and not that WHAM "Wake-me-up-before-you-go-go" shit.
Be well. Stay well.
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