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Please help me! I'm very scared!
Sep 12, 1997

I am a 20 year old boy. My problem is I have this fear and paranoia about contracting HIV. For your information, I have never done anything risky because religion has been a very big part of my life and my family. However, these days, things like going to the doctor is scaring me a lot. For instance, I went to see a doctor a few months back and I received a jab. Now, I have this paranoid feeling that the doctor might have accidentally used an old needle and infect me with HIV. I know the chances small but I keep getting this feeling that even though it is small, it is not impossible and it could happen to me. There are many more situation that had caused me to be so scared, such as sitting on a wet toilet seat, drinking mineral water who had it's protective seal broken and many many more. Please help me. I'm feeling stressed out and very worried. Everyday I can't help thinking about how heart broken my mother would be if I really was infected.

Response from Rev. Pieters

If religion has been "a very big part" of your life and your family, then you need to start applying your faith to your fear. Jesus says, for instance, in Mark 5, "Fear not; only believe." In 1 John 4 it is written "Perfect love casts out all fear." God's love and your faith can help you deal with your fears, and you seem to have a lot!

I highly doubt that a good doctor would "accidentally" use an old needle. Ask him or her if this was at all possible. The answer may soothe this fear.

I've never heard of anyone contracting HIV from a wet toilet seat. However, just to make yourself feel more secure and protect yourself from other germs which may be present, use those protective paper coverings before you sit down. I've also never heard of anyone contracting HIV from sharing a drink with someone who's HIV positive. It just doesn't happen like that! Again, because of other germs, don't drink anything where the seal is broken and there may be a chance of contamination.

Yes, your mother and you yourself would be pretty heartbroken if you were infected with HIV. So learn the facts of HIV transmission and prevention. These facts are available here at The Body.

Meanwhile, don't borrow trouble! Unless you have had unprotected sex with someone who is infected, or shared needles directly used by someone with HIV, it is highly unlikely that you have been infected. If you're really scared that you may be infected anyway, then get tested. There are anonymous HIV testing sites where no one need know that you're being tested. From what you've shared, I would be very surprised if your test came back positive. If it's negative, then you can stop worrying, and armed with the facts of HIV prevention, you can continue to avoid HIV infection. If the test comes back positive, then it's very good that you know now, because there is much evidence to indicate that early treatment of HIV can prolong your life.

So get tested, study the facts about HIV, and stop worrying quite so much! Rather than being scared to death, you can be scared to life! Please read my column, "Fear and Faith," from January, 1996, for more information on handling your fears.



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