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You have changed me for the better
Apr 14, 2008

I come from a white, religious, conservative family in Arkansas. I am writing this as I feel the most scared and vulnerable in my entire life.

The feeling is compounded by anger as I did not do anything wrong. I woke up one morning with a stiff neck, and had track practice in the afternoon. To try and get my neck to be less stiff, I went to a massage parlour. Unfortunately, this was no ordinary massage parlour. I was immediately asked to take off all my clothes (which I stupidly did), and lie down. I then got a terrible massage, and was then asked if I wanted innappropriate things or "extras". I obviously declined, as any sexual act before marriage goes against my values.

I then got up and left. However I noticed the towell that I used was folded up and left on the table. I also noticed they did this in another room, where I heard noises which suggested there was more than massage going on. I enquired about this and they said that they re used the towels and did not wash, and told me not to worry.

My concern is this. Given that the towels are not washed, and given that sex occurs at this place, ( I was offered it), what are my chances of contracting HIV given that I was lying down on a towel that was dirty and might have had semen on it. I was naked on the towel, and hence my penis may have come into contact with semen had it been on the towel.

I should point out though that no one would have been in that room for 5 minutes, as I went in and had a shower before the massage. Would this decrease the odds?

Please take this question seriously and answer. My views have changed considerably since reading your story and how you answer questions. I admire you so much for giving such time and empathy to those on here that ask questions.

I also now believe it is wrong to hate homosexuality, and believe those that do are actually in the wrong as they are hating one of god's creations.

Please understand that for obvious reasons I am very reluctant to bring this up with my family or family doctor. I am a scared teenager and really want some assurances that it is all ok. I read the archives and a similar question was asked, but the answer, given by Mr Kull, was "HIV is only known to be transmitted through anal, vaginal or oral sex". It didn't actually rule out getting it from a towel in the manner I described. I am pleading with you to help me out here.

Thanks Matthew

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hey Matthew,

First off I'm delighted that despite your "white, religious, conservative" upbringing, by reading my comments you now realize it is "wrong to hate homosexuality!" BRAVO! I'll answer your question if you agree to do something in return for me. Deal? Good. All you have to do is teach your friends and family what you've learned here. No, not about spunked-up towels or rub-and-tug massages with happy endings! I'm talking about your new enlightenment pertaining to not hating gay men and women. If I've changed you it's now up to you to enlighten others. That's called "paying it forward."

Regarding your HIV risk, it's completely nonexistent. If HIV were that easy to contract it would have wiped out the entire planet long ago! HIV doesn't live very long outside the body. The chances of your contracting it from a spunked-up towel are nonexistent. I see absolutely no cause for concern or reason to consider HIV testing.

Basic information like this pertaining to HIV transmission (or lack thereof) should be part of every sex education class in school. We are currently doing a terrible job educating kids (and young adults) about HIV transmission, prevention and risk. Hopefully that will change once Obama becomes the next president and we get rid of the abstinence-only-until marriage sex-education programs that hardly mention HIV prevention, STDs, condoms, etc. As you can see, you obviously plan to be abstinent until you are married, but you still wound up being freaked out by a potential exposure. Proper sex-education would have taught you this was not an HIV risk, thereby allowing you to avoid all this unnecessary and unwarranted worry. Sex-education should not be "abstinence only," but rather "abstinence plus." That means explaining that being abstinent certainly would prevent unwanted pregnancies and STDs, but also teaching age-appropriate information about HIV awareness and prevention, STDs, condoms, etc.

Be well Matthew.

Dr. Bob



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