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How to find a counselor

May 13, 1998

I noticed on previous questions that many people who have tested negative on Hiv screening tests at or after six months are still very anxious. Questions from whether or not home access tests are reliable to the "window period" have been a concern for many including myself. I am begining to realize that if you do worry on a day to day basis even after testing negative at six months then counseling is appropriate. What is the best approach for finding a counseler who has experience with anxiety of Hiv/Aids? What steps can we take to control our fear on our own?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

When a person has a difficult time accepting that they are at low risk of infection, or if they have a difficult time accepting that they are not infected, counseling often provides a solution to the problem. Very often, the underlying problem is not AIDS itself. Rather, the true issues are often those of guilt, irrational fear, or other psychological problems. The fear of having AIDS is often a symptom of another problem, ranging from overwhelming guilt, to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), to other psychological problems. Sometimes it takes the help of a professional counselor to help people learn to cope with fear, guilt, and other emotions.

If you want to go into counseling and you are looking for a local counselor, my best suggestion is to look in the yellow pages of your local phone book under "Mental Health" or a similar heading. If you are dealing with issues such as guilt, fear etc., then you usually do not have to go to an AIDS counselor. For these types of issues, a general counselor will often be all you need. Some counseling centers charge a set fee, and others charge by sliding scale (the less you can afford, the less you pay). Sometimes, insurance will cover the costs of counseling. If your case requires medical intervention (for example if there is a need for anti-depressants and other drugs), then you may be referred to a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medications in addition to counseling.

For more information on this issue, please read the posting, I can't cope with my fear of AIDS. What should I do?.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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