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Educated too late?
Aug 8, 2001

I have been a peer educator for HIV/AIDS and other STD's for about six months. However, I made poor choices in my sexual activities. About a two years ago, I had a one night stand with a guy I knew for only three days. We used protection, but somehow in the middle of intercourse, the condom came off and was inside of me for two days without my knowledge. I never gave it a second thought until after becoming educated through my Peer educator counseling. Now, I am extremely worried and scared to receive testing. I find that while I do not catch colds very often, but they seem to last longer than most people's colds do. Also, I am constantly getting vaginal bacterial infections. I may be worrying myself to death, but I am frightened. Since that one night stand, I have talked to the guy, and he has not said anything about being sick. He also never said anything about losing the condom. I do not know if he ejaculated or not because I made him stop after about five minutes. I felt guilty and disgusting. I had surgery this past February in which they took blood, and I do not know if they tested for AIDS/HIV. I know you all are busy, but please answer my questions. I am very scared and need your advice.

Overly Worried?

Response from Mr. Kull

The feelings you are describing are common among people who begin to do work in the field of HIV, AIDS, and other STDs. Learning about HIV and educating others about the disease can be a valuable experience, but can be a difficult and stressful job. Counseling others about HIV can stir up a lot of emotions in ourselves, similar to the ones you are experiencing now. Paying attention to your feelings and using them to enhance your counseling skills has the potential to make you a more empathic and engaging person with your clients. You can understand what is going on with the people you talk to.

Your one exposure with this guy does not put you at significant risk for infection (we actually don't have enough details to determine what exactly happened), and the symptoms you are experiencing could be totally unrelated to HIV. The best way to determine your HIV status is to get an HIV antibody test at least three months following this encounter.

It sounds like you did everything within your control to protect yourself against HIV infection. A condom slipping off is a scary experience, and we can't always understand when or why it happens. So, why are you feeling guilty? Are there other aspects about the experience that upset you (besides the HIV related ones)? Does this have something to do with aome anxiety about doing counseling with others?

If you can, talk with other peer counselors or your supervisor about your feelings. If you don't feel comfortable talking about details, try talking about it in a more abstract way. This may not only be helpful to you, but to other counselors who (I bet!) are having similar feelings.

RMK



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