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symptoms, but everyone thinks I'm crazy The Body: Rick Sowadsky M.S.P.H., C.D.S, Answers to Safe Sex Questions

Jan 7, 1997

dear dr. sawodsky, I had sex using a condom with a prostitute exactly two weeks ago. i don't know if it was latex because she provided it. About 6 days after the inci dent I developed cold night sweats for 4 to 5 nights, no other symptoms at the time. Today, about a week later, I developed a rash that seemed to begin as a few isolated bites (like bug bites), but it spread up my forearms, neck and legs. It is intermittently very itchy, and is bumpy. I have been in a state of total panic all this time. I called two hotlines and discussed this with my wife. They all say that since I used a condom, I need not worry and that my reactions are from guilt or emotional problems stemming from the incident. I try to believe that, but I can't get the idea of HIV infection out of my mind. I've read about Acute Viral Syndrome and this sounds like it to me. Do you agree? I am beginning to feel that I am losing my mind from fear. I can acknowledge that I may be overreacting, but doesn't this scenario merit some concern? I would much rather be convinced that I am paranoid than to find out I have HIV. Can you help me with this? Thank you.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. Since you were using a condom with this prostitute, your risks of infection were low, assuming you used the condom correctly, and it did not leak, break, or fall off. Because the symptoms of Acute Viral Syndrome looks exactly like the symptoms of many other illnesses, NOBODY can tell you whether your symptoms are due to this syndrome or not. Only HIV testing can determine if a person has HIV or not.

Your fears and reaction to guilt are very common. However, nobody can quantify your risks other than to say your risks were low. If this is continuing to upset you, and your fears are interfering with your life on an ongoing basis, then you may want to consider professional counseling to help you cope with your fears and your guilt issues.

I also suggest that you see your physician to determine the cause of your rash, if it persists or gets more severe. And remember that having a rash does not indicate HIV infection, in of itself!

If you want more information about Acute Viral Syndrome, see the Question, Acute Retroviral Syndrome Dated January 3, 1997.

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

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