PLEASE POST! Woo-hoo to the worried well, from someone with nearly EVERY single ARS symptom out there.
Feb 18, 2012
This letter goes to all of you (yes, you) worried wells out there frantically googling your symptoms. I know who you are. I am one of you. Or at least I was, until today.
I had unprotected sex with a friend five times three months ago. He's a good friend - I've known him for 17 years. We slept together (always protected) 16 years ago and it was always fun. Hes good at it. Amazing, actually. I dont know where he learned some of that stuff. Anyway, we kept in touch over the years and last year we found ourselves both single again and living in different cities. After a few months of phone flirting, he came to visit. We didnt use protection, obviously. Why? Because I am a freaking IDIOT. Because I love him as a friend, and I trusted him. I would never expose a friend to the disease, and I assumed my friend would treat me the same way. I am nave. Well, maybe not nave exactly, but I like to be swept away, and its hard to be swept away when you have to pause, stop panting, turn on the light and put a piece of sticky latex between you. Plus, lets just face it its just not the same. It was a lovely weekend his skills actually seemed to have improved actually, defying possibility but a couple of weeks later, things started to happen. I got sick. Headache, sore throat. My neck was stiff and achy. I had a fever and chills. These all persisted. I googled my symptoms. It wasnt good. HIV kept coming up. The most common symptoms of a person recently infected with HIV are fever, sore throat, swollen glands in the neck, armpits and groin, muscle and joint pains, rash and/or night sweats. Less common symptoms include weight loss, diarrhea, nausea, headache, mouth sores and yeast infections of the mouth (thrush). Symptoms are usually experienced about 2-4 weeks following infection. The timeline was right on. My symptoms had started right after the two week mark. I started to have a very uneasy feeling. After doing research for a few days and not feeling any better, I called my friend in a semi-panic. He assured me he had had a CBC a couple of months before and everything was fine. I slept fine for a couple of nights and then googled whether HIV comes up on a CBC. It doesnt. I tried to reassure myself that this was a person I trusted, that he would never do this to me. Then a little voice would whisper in my ear: What if he doesnt know he has it? Some people dont get symptoms when theyre infected. SOME PEOPLE DONT SHOW SYMPTOMS FOR YEARS. But I dont have the IMPORTANT symptoms, I told myself desperately. For example, I dont have swollen glands, and almost everyone gets swollen glands because the body is trying to fight off the virus. Within days I got stabbing pains in the lymph nodes under my jaw and behind my ear. The ones in my armpit and groin burned and swelled. I woke up in a cold sweat the next night and sat straight up in bed. I knew then I had HIV. Generalized lymphadenopathy is one of the hallmarks of infection. Not to mention night sweats. I started getting hot and cold flashes all the time. My skin felt funny. I had weird pinprick sensations that I never had before. I googled this. Its called neuropathy, and its a symptom, too, although less common only about 12% of people with acute HIV get it. By six weeks after exposure I was spending almost all of my free time on the internet. I was compulsively googling my symptoms, reading blogs and medical websites and sites specifically for people with HIV. I was looking for reassurance that what I was experiencing was different somehow than what people with HIV experience, but it wasnt working. It was just sounding more and more like me, all the time. To compound things even further my friend had suddenly stopped calling me, telling me lame excuses that he was busy or had family stuff going on. I decided he knew he had HIV the whole time and now that I had gotten sick was distancing himself. I started to hate him. I started to prepare what I would say when I called him to tell him I was positive. I almost called and told him I was positive on a bluff, just to see if he would break down and admit it. My only condolences at this point were that I wasnt promiscuous (although what difference did that make when my friend probably was?) and that there were still a few lingering symptoms I didnt have. I didnt have the rash, which I had read a majority of people get. And I didnt have mouth sores, or thrush. I got a bumpy rash on my back and a red, swollen, flaky rash on my chin a few days later. My face is never dry. According to the internet it was seborrheic dermatitis, which is most common in people with lowered immunity in fact 85% of people with HIV get it. And then I got a couple of canker sores. And a white tongue - thrush. At this point I KNEW I was positive, so getting tested was basically pointless. I considered how I was going to tell my family, and when. I confessed to a friend what was going on. Jesus Christ, go get tested! he pleaded. Youre killing yourself. Youre driving yourself crazy! But Im too scared. I only want to know if its negative, I cried. And I dont think it is. Why not? Because I have all the symptoms, I said. My friends been with a ton of people. The timing is perfect. I have it. By this point about two months out - I was in a constant state of hand-shaking panic. HIV was all I could think about, morning, noon and night. I thought about how my life was going to change, how I was going to be faced with new doctors, and infections, and drugs for the rest of my now-much-shorter life. How I wanted support from my family and friends, but that if I told them, they would tell everyone, and I would be a pariah. How this was all, completely, totally, my fault. So I waited. I didnt want to face the facts. I just wanted my symptoms to go away, so I could be in the asymptomatic period (maybe for ten years!) and be in denial for a while. Maybe ignorance is bliss, I told myself. But I couldnt sleep. Every time I tried to take my mind off of it, I felt pain in my head, in my mouth, in my lymph nodes. I started drinking more, and taking sleeping pills, and spending too much time taking showers and baths, trying to wash it all away. Nothing worked. Eventually I decided I just wanted to feel better. I couldnt live in pain anymore. I had read that a lot of people had had good experience with Atripla, which brought their viral levels to an undetectable level. I decided that thats what I wanted. I went to the health department, where I hoped they wouldn't judge me. Theres a free test if you want to wait a week for your results, but for $25 they can give you your results in 15 minutes. I paid $25. I was negative. And Im three months past exposure now, so its conclusive. Can you believe that? I had nearly every single symptom in the book, and Im negative. I started crying when the guy gave me my results and he said, The mind is a powerful thing. Now that youre negative your symptoms will probably all go away. AMEN. And WOO-HOOOOOO!
LESSONS LEARNED: 1. Dont waste your life. You can make yourself sick worrying. Just get tested. It will probably be negative. If it is, you will be so relieved. If it isnt, you will be better for it, and you will be on the road to feeling better. 2. Protect yourself, every time. If I had, I wouldnt have gone through any of this
Response from Mr. Cordova
This is GREAT! Thank you for sending this in. It is true. The mind is a very powerful thing. The mind, combined in an internet search engine can wreak havoc on just about anyone.
I'm glad that everything worked out.
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