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Extreme anxiety
Apr 29, 2008

Hi Dr. Bob, I am so sorry to bother you again, and I promise that if I do not stop worrying after you answer this question that I will go and seek psychological help. But basically, a few months ago I was terrified I had HIV from an unprotected sexual encounter that happened 6 months prior to the testing. Thankfully the test came back negative, and I was happy for a while and thought I would be able to get on with my life again. Instead, however, I have since been filled with completely irrational fears about contracting HIV throughout my day to day life. For example, today I was eating at a public table and I noticed a speck of red liquid on my finger. I was eating something with tomato in it, so it was probably that. Anyhow, I wiped it off my finger immediately. I then (stupidly) decided to lick my finger, hoping the taste would assure me that it was tomato, and not blood. I couldn't taste anything, and I was pretty sure that the red mark had already gone when I licked it, but a few minutes later my head was filled with fear, that it was actually someone else's blood. It is now seven hours later and I can think of nothing else. Things like this have been happening often lately, and I thought that if you could just clarify a few things for me then I would hopefully be able to put these doubts to rest: 1: is it actually possible to contract HIV via fluids that have not come directly from someones body? e.g. the table incident. I have read that HIV survives for hours in the environment. 2: If HIV does survive in the environment, is there a sufficient enough amount in it so that another person can catch it? 3: Does there need to be a sufficient amount of bodily fluids acquired for HIV to be contracted? e.g. with the table incident, would the speck be enough for me to contract HIV if it was HIV positive blood? I really hope you can answer these questions for me. If the anxiety still persists, I will seek pyschological help, however I think that if these specific issues can be answered by you I will hopefully feel better. I promise to an HIV fund, when I have some (poor student at the moment!). Thank you again Dr Bob, from a very worried aussie

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Worried Aussie,

The HIV-acquisition risk from the public table incident you describe is completely nonexistent!

I agree you are "filled with completely irrational fears about contracting HIV." I do not think this is something you are going to be able to get over without professional help. Yep, I'm recommending you head for the shrink's couch and get some much needed therapy. That "things like this have been happening often lately" is no way to live and suggests your anxiety is worsening. You need something stronger than Dr. Bob's words; something stronger than even a vegemite sandwich! Failure to get the help you need might just send you "round the bend" and result in there being a few 'roos loose in the top paddock.

Good luck mate!

Dr. Bob



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