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Risk of HIV-2 from Ghanian housemate

Jul 2, 2011

Hi Dr.,

I am having an unbearable panic attack. I just took a Home Access HIV-1 test, which was negative, and I felt totally relieved for a while. Then my mind started wandering. What about HIV-2? Im pretty sure I have been tested for it, since a year and a half ago I had a rapid HIV test at my college, and after researching rapid tests, Im pretty confident the rapid test I took was a dual HIV 1/2 test. However, Im worried about my boyfriend. he has only ever a Home Access HIV-1 test, which was negative. The reason Im worried about HIV-2 is because about three years ago, his dad invited a friend from Ghana to live with them for a few months while he was between jobs. This Ghanian is a very nice guy, but I know nothing about him, and I know that HIV-2 seroprevalence in Ghana is high. In the time that he lived in the same house as my boyfriend, Im worried that he may have used his toothbrush or razor, either intentionally or accidentally, and therefore could have transmitted HIV-2 to him. Or, he could have used my boyfriends little brothers razor or toothbrush, and since my boyfriend often shares a razor with his little brother, the virus could have been passed from the Ghanian to my boyfriends brother to my boyfriend via these personal care items. Due to this possibility, I want my boyfriend to get tested for HIV-2, but I have no idea how to go about this. Also, he thinks Im being utterly irrational and does not want to be tested. I think this is irresponsible, as there is the possibility that this Ghanian fellow infected him while he lived there. Please help me! Is this a valid fear? Could my boyfriend have been infected with this subtype of HIV? Should I urge him to be tested? I feel like Im dying of fear and the unknown.

Thank you,

Fearful

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello, Fearful.

I absolutely agree with your boyfriend: You are being "utterly irrational." Your fears are unwarranted. HIV-2 testing is not medically indicated.

The real problem here is your "unbearable panic attack" triggered by your irrational fears surrounding HIV. I suggest you talk with your doctor or a mental health professional to help with your anxiety and coping with these unwarranted worries.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob



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