Can I stop cyber-stalking you now?
Mar 1, 2009
Dear Dr Frascino, This is the medical student who has been panicking in a very dark place for 2 months. I am being more formal than usual this time because I respect your opinion so much.
Today I got the results of a PCR test done 10 weeks after exposure, 6 weeks after finishing PEP, 5 weeks after the onset of PGL and a flu-like illness.
Both were negative/non-reactive. I have also had non-reactive antibody tests at 5 weeks and 8.5 weeks post-exposure.
I know the recommendation is to get an antibody test at 12 weeks and again at 6 months, which I will certainly do, but in the meantime, can I be sure that my symptoms (which are actually ongoing) are not due to acute HIV infection?
I know this fear has happened to others and I wish it on no one and I should get on with my life, but I think it will be difficult for me. The confluence of a high-rish exposure, ARS-like symptoms and signs (in the absence of any other likely explaination) and the timing of the end of my course of PEP made me nearly certain I was seroconverting.
Can I woohoo or do you think there's still a chance I am infected?
Response from Dr. Frascino
Hello Panicking Medical Student,
What you will learn as you progress in your medical training is that being "nearly certain I was seroconverting" and actually seroconverting are two very different things. If you review the archives you'll find gazillions of testimonials from anxious wrecks who were "110%" certain they were seroconverting, but eventually realized they were HIV negative, despite having "every symptom known to man".
Your repeatedly negative tests to date post-PEP are extremely encouraging. I do not believe your symptoms are HIV related. (Your negative PCR corroborates this assumption).
I remain extremely confident your definitive post-PEP HIV-antibody tests at three and six months will continue to be negative. Hold the celebratory WOO-HOO champagne until you get your final results. However, I certainly think you can put it in the ice bucket and get the flutes ready, OK?
Finally, I'm concerned about your degree of anxiety and panic over this incident. Irrational fears of HIV could hinder your becoming an effective physician. You should consider counseling to help you conquer these fears before they begin to interfere with your internship, residency, fellowship, etc.
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