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hiv obsession and night sweats downunder
Aug 22, 2001

Hi Ryan

For a long time I have been obsessed with the idea I have hiv, and every medical symptom I get I attribute to my assumed hiv infection.

I have recently begun to have night sweats (doctor says it may be perimenopause - I am a 47 year old woman). This year I have also had some skin problems like sore mouth corners (now better), toenail fungus, eczema on ankles (now better), itchy scalp and dry, flaky skin on hands.

However, I can't understand how I could have caught it as I have no sexual or shared needle risks. (No intercourse or oral sex for 10 years since a negative test in 1991, never injected recreational drugs.)

I keep wondering if I could have caught it from:

A) Acrylic nail salon. About three years ago the operator told me there was a transsexual in the day before (about 15 hours prior to my appointment). Very occasionally the cuticle is nicked when they are filing the acrylic nail and there could be blood. (Doesn't happen often, but it does happen.) I worry that this could have happened to this high risk person, then some of their blood could have contaminated the cuticle oil which is painted onto everyone's cuticles with a shared brush. At the time I had a little cut under one of my nails.

B) Kiss on cheek from men with HIV-AIDS. I used to know a couple of guys with HIV-AIDS and they once kissed me on the cheek.

C) Contaminated dental or colonoscopy implements. However my dentist says he was one of the first practices to use an autoclave for sterilisation many years ago.

I just can't get this hiv fear out of my mind, but I am too scared to be tested.

What do you think?

Worried sick in Australia

Response from Mr. Kull

The fact that you say that you are obsessing about HIV, but have no real evidence that you have been exposed to HIV through a likely route, says a lot. It is so unlikely that you would have been infected through a manicure, a kiss on the cheek, or through surgical/dental instruments. Obsessing about anything, especially when it begins to disrupt your life, is a problem that is important to address. Since HIV is really not a likely cause of your symptoms, maybe something else is.

Obsession, excessive worry, or other types of anxiety-related conditions are very common mental health problems experienced by people in the world. The good news is that there are treatments available for problematic anxiety. See a mental health professional to assess your level of anxiety.

RMK



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