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Made a mistake: Am I 'in for it'?
Jul 29, 1998

Dear Reverend,

I am a 19 year old young man from Illinois. Recently, I have experienced a series of incidents which have led to extreme anxiety. I will outline the main points of my story for you:

At the end of May, I got into a fight and got the other fellow's blood on me. I freaked out when I realized this, because I am extremely afraid of contracting HIV. So the week following the incident, I prayed and prayed. In one of these often desperate prayers, I told God that I would not masturbate for two days (and said I would never do a specific act of masturbation ever again). If I did do these things, I told God, he could indeed give me HIV. That was the 'deal' I made, in an attempt to win His favor.

Of course, I did not keep my end of the bargain. For a few moments the day after, I convinced myself such a deal was foolish, and the world doesn't work like that. So I rushed home and broke both parts of my deal. That very night, I went to a gathering to watch the Bulls game. There was drinking. There was also a small but vicious dog. Me and my drunk friend were testing the dog to see if it would bite, and it did. It made my friend's finger bleed pretty badly. About 20 seconds later, the dog bit me as well, right through my shoe! My friend and I were sharing a whiskey bottle thereafter, and I had a small cut on my finger. Without getting into specifics, Rick Sowadsky, my father, and some friends have told me possible transmission from my friend (who might not even be positive)to me was an unrealistic possibility.

However, I soon tied the incident to my prayer to God. I believe that since I asked for AIDS if I broke the deal, God was only fulfilling HIS end of the deal by 'granting' it to me through the dogbite or bloody whiskey bottle. This may sound peculiar, but I assure you it is very real to me.

The real problem is that I now believe I have the disease because I asked for it. But I don't really want it! I have a girlfriend whom I love more than I can tell you. I cry very hard and deeply every time I think of what I did. I think how I forgot about her (she is away for the summer), and possibly jeopardized our relationship. I pray to God every night that I don't have HIV, and also for forgiveness of my broken word. I pray because if there is one thing I am certain of, it is that I love Jamie with all my heart. If I hurt her, or get her sick, then it is all over for me.

Reverend, do you think God knows that my prayers for Jamie and HIV negativity are sincere, and that He would not give me AIDS because I asked for it? I am very afraid that this is a case of 'Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it'.

Please respond, sir, an answer would be extremely comforting! Sorry about the length.

Response from Rev. Pieters

Take a deep breath, and Rest easy, my friend. The God whom I know does not give AIDS or any other illness to a person as some kind of punishment. Please see the article, "HIV/AIDS: Is It God's Judgment?" also posted here on my page at The Body. God does not use illness to punish anyone.

You feel you made a promise to God that you broke, which has touched off feelings of guilt and shame in you. But it seems to me that you are extremely repentant about your broken promise. I believe you can rest assured by the fact that when we have openly and honestly confessed the ways in which we might have failed, God is kind and just, and forgives us completely. I am positive that God understands and forgives you.

As to the exposure to blood you have experienced... from your description of the incidents, I agree that there is not a strong likelihood that you were infected in these circumstances. But to put your own mind at ease, please take the HIV antibody test. If you are infected, getting treated early can make a real difference to your life span. At least you live in a time when HIV can be treated. And your girlfriend would need to know as well, so that she can be tested and treated if necessary. If you're not infected, then you can stop beating yourself up, and perhaps start fresh with your relationship, always keeping lines of honest communication open between you.

So calm down, remember to breathe, take the test, learn the FACTS about HIV transmission, and don't put yourself or your girlfriend at risk!

I know it's not easy. I went through a tremendous period of "AIDS anxiety" myself at one time. With a lot of prayer, meditation, and support from good friends in the Church, that period served to strengthen my faith. So now I can tell you with assurance that God is with you, God loves you, and God will empower you to handle any challenges which may lie ahead. As I am fond of saying, "Faith works. Use it."



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