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HELP!
Oct 23, 1996

I am 22 years old. Ten months ago I had unprotected sex with a boyfriend, who I later found out was very promiscuous. After we broke up, he told me that he has had sex with 27 women. Since I have only had two sexual partners, I was extremely hurt and upset that he had not been honest with me. After the unprotected sex, I was tested for HIV at 2 months, 4 months, 7 months, and 9 months. All tests have been negative, but I cannot stop worrying. I have had four medical doctors and numerous HIV/AIDS counselors tell me that I can stop worrying, but I cannot. I am again dating my first and only true love, and we would like to get married soon. The problem is, I cannot get over the fear of being infected with HIV and passing it on to this man that I love so much. It is as if I have become obsessed with this fear of being HIV+. I have heard of cases when the ELIZA test does not show positive until three years after exposure, and these cases never leave my thoughts. At times, I just break down and cry. At other times, I feel that I cannot even function. I feel weak, and I convince myself that I am sick. I have always believed in God, and I have also always feared God. I have prayed to God hundreds of times asking him to please let me not be infected with HIV, but I even feel guilty about this. I cannot get over the fact that I put myself at risk in the first place, and I know that God would not be happy with my actions. To make things even worse, I made a promise to God or rather a "deal" with God. I told him that I would fulfill a promise to him, If he would save me from being HIV+. I did not fulfill my promise. Do you have any advice for me? I have been told that I will NEVER be 100% sure that I am HIV-. And I cannot deal with this. I just want to go on and have a "normal" life, but I cannot stop worrying about HIV. One woman told me that I should get counseling, but a counselor cannot tell me what I want to hear (that I am, beyond a shadow of a doubt, HIV negative). Thank you so much for your time.

Response from Rev. Pieters

I hope you've read "Message to "HELP!" and others" which contains some good guidance and a generous offer of help. Also please read my answer to "How to strengthen faith in the Lord." That question is quite similar to yours, and what I say in that answer is part of what I would say to you. In addition to all that, you seem to be dealing with issues of guilt. You refer to your "deal" with God which you feel you didn't fulfill. First of all, I don't believe that God enters into such deals, because more often than not, we humans don't follow through with our part of the deal, and I'm sure God learned to understand this long ago. How does God deal with this? With forgiveness. God shows us extraordinary lovingkindness in forgiving us for all those ways we have missed the mark. I'm sure that God has long ago forgiven you. Now you need to forgive yourself. It is the loving thing to do! Of course, no one can give you any guarantees of being HIV-negative, or always staying perfectly healthy. You can probably appreciate now what those who have tested positive feel and experience in facing their status. Perhaps you can use that understanding to channel some of your concern and worry into volunteer work with persons living with HIV/AIDS. There's nothing like helping other people to help us put our own situations in perspective. And as I said to the one who asked "How to strengthen faith", try acting as if you have faith. Act as if you trust that you are HIV-negative, and see what that feels like. Chances are, after all those negative results, that you really are! And be sure to protect yourself in all future sexual encounters. It's generally wise to assume that each partner is HIV-positive, so that you will use the appropriate protection. What are you adding to your life by worrying so much that all those tests were wrong? What are you getting out of it? I believe that God gives us everything we need to face whatever challenges life hands us. Please read Matthew 6:25-34.



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