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Dealing with "Possibilities"

Apr 21, 1997

Mr. Sowadsky Although a minor problem compared to others that people using this resource encounter, I feel that I am not the only one who would benefit from your response. Even after testing negative at six months I still have trouble convincing myself that I am ok, that I am not infected. I worry about "Was 6 months enough, or am I one of the few who takes longer", or "Did the lab screw up and give me a false negative". For many it seems that dealing with the possibility of HIV is traumatic regardless of the outcome. Even those who are not infected are still affected and have a hard time dealing with "the possibilities". I am sure that in your position you have dealt with this response before, therefore could you address this for those of us dealing with it here in cyberspace. Thank You

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

There are many people who have a hard time accepting the fact that they are HIV negative, even though they have tested negative 6 months or more after a possible exposure to the virus. There are also many people who are at low risk (or no risk) for HIV infection, yet they have a hard time accepting that fact. In both of these cases, most of the time, the true issue is not HIV/AIDS. Often the true issues are those of guilt, shame for something they may have done, an irrational fear of AIDS, or other psychological problems. Often, counseling is the best solution for people in these circumstances. If a person continually thinks that they are one of those rare individuals who will take longer than 6 months to show positive, or if they think that they'll be that first person to get HIV by kissing, then that person could needlessly stress themselves to the point that their lives become destroyed by their fear of HIV/AIDS. Some people become obsessed with their fear of getting or having HIV/AIDS. Counseling is often the best solution to dealing with these types of problems. To determine if counseling may be an option for you, ask yourself these questions:

Are you still scared of getting HIV/AIDS, even when you've been told you're at low risk (or no risk) of getting the infection? Are you having a difficult time accepting the fact that you are at low/no risk?

Are you still scared of having HIV, even though you have tested negative 6 months or more after a possible exposure to the virus? Are you having a difficult time accepting the fact that you are HIV negative?

Are you having a difficult time waiting 6 months before getting tested? Are you having a difficult time coping with this 6 month waiting period?

Are your fears interfering with your day-to-day life, especially on an ongoing basis?

If you have answered yes to these questions, then consider getting counseling.

In situations such as these, counseling is often a better solution to a persons problems, than getting tested over and over and over (beyond 6 months after a possible exposure). It is also a better option, than taking specialized tests such as PCR tests, antigen tests, viral cultures, viral loads, CD4 cell counts, etc. etc. In these situations, getting all these tests, or getting tested over and over, does not solve the source of the problem. Counseling is often the best solution for persons who cannot accept the fact that they are HIV negative, or that they were at low risk (or no risk) of infection. In addition, counseling is often the best option for people who "just can't wait 6 months to get tested". Counseling helps people to learn to cope with the 6 month period of time before getting tested. Counseling can be a much better alternative than taking PCR tests, and the other specialized tests mentioned above.

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

Population Mix: HIV Infections Through Sex
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