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HIV Phobia

Sep 28, 2009

Dear Dr,

I appreciate if you have the time to answer my questions.

I am a 23 year old gay male who has had somewhat of an 'obession' with HIV. Ever since coming out, after any sexual encounter i would stress myself completely about my risk of contacting HIV. I get tested regardless of my encounters every three months. Since my last test, i have had a few sexual encounters. Since i am currently overseas i have not been tested in approximately 7 months (which i expect is expounding my usually irrational fears). My risks in the past time period include, recieving oral sex on three or four times from seperate partners, mutual masturbation and a lot of kissing. I have read your previous answers to post extensively, and as you always say, no doubt the answer are there for me, but i suppose i am after individual reassurement.

Whenever my fears arise, they usually focus on my lymph nodes. I constantly poke and probe the palpable lymph nodes in my groin, neck and specifically underarms. It has been appromixately 4 weeks since my last encounter with a male who i have been involved with before, but both encounters involved either an excessive amount of kissing, and mutual masturbation.

This week i have noticed the lypmh node in my left underarm is slightly swollen, tender and noticiably makes a subtle pain when i am inactive. Naturally, i think back and notice i have had a cold at least once between my encounters and also stomach problems for a little while, whichhave awoken my HIV fears again. Unfortunately, being overseas i feel a little less comfortable dealing with these fears than at home with my wonderful GP or a sexual health councillor who has in the past assited me with my anxiousness.

I as such have a few questions:

1. Could you possible acknowledge my fears as being irrational? Especially regarding my symptoms

2. Could you please suggest some methods to calm my fears, at least while i am overseas?

3. In the long term, what are some options regarding my fear of HIV? I know knowledge is a powerful tool with regards to staying safe, but i feel the more i know the more i become worried when specific symptoms or situations occur.

Any advice you could provide would much be appreciated.

Kind Regards, Stressed in a Foreign Land.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Stressed in a Foreign Land,

1. Yes, your fears are completely irrational and totally unwarranted.

2. Psychotherapy (counseling) is best. If that's not available, anti-anxiety medications may help. I also would recommend reading only well-respected HIV information Web sites (such as Yoga, meditation, exercise, etc. can also help reduce stress in general.

3. Same as #2 above. If your fears are persistent, consider seeing a psychiatrist (M.D.) to help you cope with as well as confront and hopefully conquer your HIV phobia.

Good luck. Remember, your problem is fear, not HIV, OK?

Dr. Bob

In dire need of your advice.
Stressed out, need some help...

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