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HIV Infected food (OCD related)

Apr 24, 2012

First off, thanks for the excellent website. There is so much helpful information about the virus and its prevention. Great job everyone!

Let me preface my question by saying that I have OCD and have had several hypochondria related fears for the past few weeks. I currently just started therapy because of the following incident, and I'm hoping it will help.

I've scoured through the entire website and found much help from previous discussions related to receiving HIV though food, and I'm grateful for the all the attention you've been giving this inquiry, especially since it tends to be similar scenarios over and over. I have a yet another similar question and I'm mostly interested in your input and if possible, reassurance that my fears are indeed unwarranted/irrational, because at this point, I don't know anymore, which is probably just a result of constant worry and OCD doubt.

I've been a nervous wreck for almost two weeks. Roughly two weeks ago, I had what very well might be a zero risk exposure, but I'm having a hard time accepting it. At the college where I work, we have a salad bar in our cafeteria and on April 12th, I decided to visit it. I made my salad and walked back to my desk to eat (roughly 5 minutes between making my salad and sitting down to eat).

It may sound silly but here's what happened...Once I went to eat a tomato wedge that was in my salad, I noticed a small roundish red spot in it that stood out from the rest of the tomato wedge. I wasn't sure what it was and not thinking of it, I took it off the inner part of the wedge and examined it. As I looked at it, in the back of my mind I was thinking 'What if it's HIV infected blood?', etc. It didn't seem like blood even though it had that deep shade of red that's associated with blood. It wasn't runny and after trying to press and break it apart with my thumb, I didn't think it was blood since it stayed together. As I moved it around on my fingers and examined it, my fingers were only slightly redish, but mostly just wet as if the red spot was water based, but I'm not sure, even though it would make perfect sense that it's a small piece of tomato. I decided that I didn't want to eat the spot anyway, so I put it off to the side in the plastic container and wiped my fingers off, which again, really only seemed wet. I decided to check the tomato wedge it was on. The tomato didn't look any different from any other tomato. The interior area where the seeds were seemed to be a deep red, but it still looked pretty normal, just a really ripe tomato. Thinking that this could be a good opportunity to fight the OCD thought, I decided to eat the tomato along with the rest of the salad. I didn't taste any blood.

As the afternoon went on I was still worried, I checked my mouth for open sores and didn't see any. I checked my fingers for any cuts, there were none and I was bombarded with fear that it there was HIV blood on the tomato that I ate. After a couple days of effort and research on TheBody, I calmed down and realized that it was probably nothing at all and was most likely just part of another tomato, and even if it was blood, there have been no cases of HIV transmission from food and it's even considered 'no risk' by the CDC since HIV can't live outside of the body for more than a few minutes given the temperature changes (coldness of the tomato), pH differences and exposure to air.

Then the fears came back a few days later in the morning of April 19th, seven days after the incident. I had a slight sore throat that went away a few hours into my day. Admittedly, I panicked and I read everything I could about HIV, checked all types of websites and checked Acute HIV symptoms. This was probably the worst thing for me to do. Since researching HIV I've been a nervous wreck. Even though the logic is still there, that it was most likely just part of a tomato, since there were about 40 other tomato wedges in the tray that I chose from, chances are it came from one of them. I'm fearing that I'd be the first person in all these years to be infected by HIV contaminated food. Off and on for the past week, I've been having nausea, slight muscle aches, some diarrhea, loss of appetite, my throat has been feeling tight and I now continuously keep checking my lymph nodes, terrified that they're swelling up, even though I can't tell if they are. I also took my temperature several times and I haven't had a fever at all, which leads me to think that all of this symptoms are anxiety related, especially since once I begin calming down, my physical symptoms start going away. I get my appetite back and I don't feel as nauseated. And since a couple days ago, my diarrhea has almost completely gone away too. Once I begin calming down and relaxing, I actually feel physically fine. It's so weird.

My parents, friends and now my new therapist have said that these thoughts are irrational and that this situation was nothing to worry about, but I still go over the situation repeatedly, over and over again in my head and I can't stop thinking about it, which fuels the worry. It feel like my physical symptoms are all anxiety related no matter how real they seem, and it would make perfect sense since I've had several bouts of hypochondria in the past few weeks, mostly about cancer fears. This past incident with my fear of contracting HIV has been the worst ever though, and feeling all of these physical symptom have made the 'intrusive thoughts' use them as justification that I was somehow infected, even though it seems like my physical symptoms come and go depending on how anxious I am.

If any of you could offer your input on the matter, it would greatly be appreciated. I'm scared to death of all these thoughts and even though I have all this logic stating that it was probably nothing at all, I'm still terrified that I was exposed and that I've either started to or I'm going to experience Acute HIV symptoms. Like I mentioned before, I recently started therapy for my anxiety (this morning actually) and it seems like this most recent HIV fear was what gave me the courage to seek therapy for it. Do you think it was the right move?

Thank you so much for your help and for your time.

Response from Ms. Southall

Hi I'm glad to hear that you have decided to seek therapy and yes I concur with all of the information that you have seen and read that there is zero risk in what you have experienced.

Getting therapy hopefully will be able to help you put this into the perspective it needs to be and realize that you are safe from this type of experience.

Be well and stay safe, Shannon

Why exactly is 3 months conclusive now?
How long does the HIV virus survive outside the body?

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