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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 TheBody.com). 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



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