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Long period of suffering

Aug 6, 2011

Hi Dr. Frascino, I'm a 27 years old guy. 3 years ago I had unprotected sex with a girl which was the start of a horrible period in my life. The girl was not from around, she was from another country and after that night I never saw her or heard of her again. About a month after the night we had sex, I was passing through my living room where my parents were watching the news and I overheard about a story of a football player from our local area having died of AIDS. The an that died was totally unrelated neither to me nor the girl, but hearing about it was just horrible. The horrible part is that it was the first time I've heard that word in the month after that night and it just got stuck in my head. I started thinking and thinking about it, thinking about lots of WHAT IFs until I decided to go for a test. I didn't tell no one, didn't try to read much about testing procedures or anything I just ran to the hospital and signed up for an anonymous testing. I got the results after a few days and it was negative. I felt so relieved at the moment it felt like I was reborn again. But that didn't last for long as just the next day after I got my results I came across an informational website on HIV/AIDS and read about the 3 months window period (and the 6 months prolonged period in some cases) that had to pass in order to get valid results. A new hell for me had arisen as I had to wait for additional 2 months for the next testing and just to be extra sure another 3 months for a second testing afterwards. I started getting even more and more obsessed about it, it started influencing my everyday life, my mood, my studies, my going outs with friends and everything else. Not to keep going, all my tests turned out negative, I even did another two tests; one a year after the event and another after a year and 8 months after the event and they were all negative. But by that time I had already spent too much time obsessing about it that I found quite difficult to get back to normal life, getting into a relationship, and not to mention thinking about sex at all, even protected one. Anyway, a lot of time passed, next month it'll be 3.5 years after all this nightmare started, and for the past 8 months I had already completely forgot about that worrying and even got into normal sexual relations with my girl and started feeling like I was on planet Earth again in all the spheres of my life.

But two weeks ago, as I was going home from work I saw a cat that was stuck with one of her legs in a trashcan and went to try and help her get out. She got scared of course, I tried to be as careful as possible and managed to get her out of there, but in the process, she managed to scratch me on the hand and she even stuck half a nail in my arm as well. This isn't the first time that I got scratched by a cat in my life, it must have happened to me a lot when I was a kid and was playing out with cats and dogs, but my old fear just woke up out of nowhere at the moment. What caused the fear was the image I saw; in the same trashcan I also saw used menstrual sanitary pads with almost or completely dried blood on them and again the WHAT IFs started bugging me since. What if the cat was touching those pads while inside the can? Of course I washed my hands thoroughly with soap as soon as I got home, but it was after an entire hour after the cat scratch happened. Even though I know that HIV doesn't survive well outside a human body, anyway, this horrible feeling is back again...So sorry for being so long and descriptive and on moments even disgusting in my question but I don't talk about this nightmare of mine with no one and now that the fear from the cat scratch is back I found your site to be one of the few places to address my problem.

Thank you so much in advance!

Response from Dr. Frascino


HIV cannot be transmitted via a cat scratch, even if Miss Kitty was doing a cha-cha-cha on the "used menstrual sanitary pads with almost or completely dried blood." There is absolutely no reason for concern or consideration for HIV testing.

Your long periods of suffering, however, are concerning. Irrational obsession with HIV can be a sign of depression, OCD or hypochondriasis among other psychological conditions. Consulting a licensed mental health professional to help you confront and conquer your irrational HIV fears is warranted.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob

Can high stress/anxiety affect HIV test results?

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