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Reged: 02/24/11
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Anxiety about HIV
      #254626 - 03/04/11 03:54 AM

I found this wonderful forum a couple of months ago, when I was doing extensive self-education about HIV. I went through the hell of anxiety and tested Negative (Elisa) at 26 weeks after exposure. I wanted to share my story in hope that it would help someone who is in similar situation as I was – going through severe anxiety and waiting to get tested.

I am an expat. I live and work in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I arrived here about 2 years ago from Europe. Plunging myself into the atmosphere of Asian business, I quickly found out that here in Asia, business and entertainment go along quite closely. So on some of my business trips around Southeast Asia, time after work was spent visiting spas and karaoke bars with my local business partners. Bar girls, soapy massages, etc etc - I have seen all of them. I was always careful about protection, but nonetheless my idea of me possibly catching HIV had always been in my mind, since I was indeed living a risky lifestyle. During another night-out with my buddies in Jakarta last September, I had this thought "well, you have played around so much already, you will remember this night for your entire life". I dismissed the thought and went ahead. I remember looking at the girl and thinking "yes, she might have HIV, but I am still protected, so that's fine". Some voice was telling me to stop, but I went ahead. It was unprotected oral she performed on me, and a protected vaginal sex. "that's It, now you have it" - was the thought in my head when I was in taxi to the airport the next morning. Two days later, I was ill with flu-like symptoms. My body temperature ranged from 37.3 - 39.2'C, I had shivers and very intense night sweats. The fever lasted 2 weeks, and night sweats lasted for another 2 month or so. My lymph nodes in my groin area were swollen (one was 1 inch in diameter) and were very painful. I had never had fevers like that before. From day one I was searching for answers on internet, trying to find an answer that would point me towards something but not HIV. Alas, everything I read, pointed towards HIV related symptoms. A month into fever/night sweats I noticed that I lost weight, developed apathy for work, family and life in general. My whole existence was preoccupied by the fear of having HIV and I was slipping into depression. In early December my feet started feeling very cold. In January, I started feeling the opposite - hot, tingling sensation in my feet. The sensation would come and go, and as soon as it came, I would get more depressed and go online in hope for finding a non-HIV explanation, but would go away completely convinced I had HIV. Then canker sores appeared in my mouth and a mild thrush. I developed eczema (brown itchy spots) in between my fingers and on my feet. I lost more weight, had malaise, headaches, pain in my throat, painful lymph nodes, pain in my legs and joints, memory issues. I think I have developed most of the symptoms related to HIV, with the exception of probably few, like rash and nausea. By then I was fully convinced I had HIV. How do I disclose to my wife? Is she infected? How are we going to build future? Are my kids going to grow up without us? It was HELL. The rational side of me did realize that I worried too much and needed to take control. But the only thing I could do was to drink whisky to help me cope with the stress and anxiety. I was afraid to visit a doctor - partly of fear to get confirmatory test but mainly because Malaysia has strict laws on HIV positives. Malaysia has deported foreigners with HIV. Every positive case must be reported to the government, then I heard that visas get canceled, and people sent off. The fear of me testing positive, losing my job and health insurance, infecting my wife was literally killing me. I could not cope with all of that and alcohol was my only helper.

But this forum got me convinced that I needed to get tested somehow, so I contacted a local AIDS organization if they could help me get tested anonymously. I met the most wonderful people there, who arranged with a local doctor to meet with me, get me tested without giving my name and passport number. I tested at 25 weeks after exposure (Elisa) non-reactive.

These 4 months of anxiety have been transformational for me. First, I made peace with God. Suddenly, things I didn't get to understand in the Bible, seem so true to me. Perhaps God has used this experience to prove to me the very thing I was rejecting for years - that I was a Sinner. Indeed I was and I am.

Second, I have come to realize my life's priorities. It is horrible that I was putting my wife's/kids' lives at risk for some bar-time and a $50 dollar f**k with a prostitute!!! I am done with that dirty stuff for good, I have my wife whom I love so much and my kids whom I adore like never before.

Third, I’ve learnt how powerful our mind and imagination can be in affecting our bodies and health. I read about mouth sores on the web, got concerned, and hey – two days later they appear in my mouth. Symptoms are not a major factor to say you have HIV. I have had most of HIV related symptoms, but tested negative. Test is the only true way to know it. So if you are going through anxiety, get tested, talk to a doctor, friend, or someone from AIDS organization about it. Do not submerge yourself into self-guided internet research.

And lastly, I have come to understand that those infected with HIV are people just like anybody else, that HIV can affect anyone, not just "drug addicts and prostitutes" as I used to think. I realized that we have to fight the stigma associated with the disease. Your forum has helped me understand that point tremendously. I stand impressed by the optimism, endurance, courage and positive attitude of many of HIV positive forum participants (River, TrueLife, PostinThailand, Bartleby and many others - your posts were so encouraging and educating for me). You guys have helped me see my life in true and bright colors, understand what is it that really matters in life. I haven't posted here before, but read through hundreds of pages and I feel for many of the forum's members. I will keep all of you in my daily prayers, and will start donating regularly to HIV research so that the date of HIV cure comes very soon and drugs get more affordable. And I will do my best to fight the HIV stigma among my friends, colleagues and family members.

And finally, without preaching morals here, but if there are readers here doing what I was doing - having "fun" outside marriage or partner - please stop to think about possible consequences and the person whom you are putting at risk. Go home, kiss you wife/partner and hug your kids. Life is far more valuable than the "fun on the side"

Signing off, Peace to All.

Edited by Beeps (03/04/11 04:13 AM)

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Re: Anxiety about HIV new
      #254640 - 03/04/11 05:33 PM

thanks for sharing your story. i hope others learn from it!

but for those who are going to play, play safe and test regularly.

Bartleby at The Body
Bulletin Board Administrator

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Re: Anxiety about HIV new
      #254698 - 03/09/11 05:31 PM

Hi Beeps,

Thanks for the honorable mention! I am telling my story to say the same, if an honest family man can get infected from a dirty ER, than we all can.

I am lucky, I have my kids and girlfriend to support me and this great forum and medications to keep me going.

YES - if you are engaging in risky behavior, STOP! I never got that chance, but I want my message to be clear; take good care of yourself and fight this stigma that is tied to this disease. It is not only the "sinners" that get it. We are your fathers, sons, daughters and so on that deserve support and are still who we are. Not all of us get this through actions we willingly participated in, even today. Your love and understanding is what gives us the courage to live another day, adhere to our meds, and help all who are afflicted, no matter what method it came to us in.

We are all humans, we are all connected, and we are all worthy of respect, no matter what our status is, or how we got it. Helping others to protect themselves and helping those who are infected to find the help they deserve is the true path of compassion.

Thank you for sharing your story!

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