Hi Dr. Bob,
I just wanted to share a recent experience with you and your readers concerning the ill-advised confidence we have over the integrity of a condom.
About 6 weeks ago I had intercourse with a sex worker. We used a condom and the sex was somewhat firm but not in anyway aggressive. After ejaculation I could see no trace of a breakage - not that I was really looking, I mean what are you supposed to look for?
Eight days later I had an acute epididymitis infection that saw me hospitalised for 5 days and taking a cocktail of antibiotics. I was discharged with another 20 days of antibiotics to go. Just 5 days ago in the last week of antibiotics I was violently ill. Vomiting, chronic diarrhea, fever, fatigue, muscle weakness - all the classic symptoms of seroconversion and all within 5 weeks of exposure. I have been wracking my brain to find how it could be possible that I may have contracted the infection as an STI and that I am now a candidate for HIV!! How is it possible if I was wearing a condom?? A little research on the internet reveals that condom breakages are common and that users are advised to examine the condition of the condom (I guess if time permits) whilst flinging away at each other.
The concern for me now is that I have no idea if I was going through seroconversion or just reacting to the dosage of antibiotics. The only way to know for sure is to do a HIV test at the 3-month mark. No amount of speculation is going to alter the outcome so I calmly await my turn.
But I have been reading all the comments in this forum and can appreciate the panic and concern expressed by many, and I simply wanted to share my experience to make people aware that safe sex can protect but you should ALWAYS check the condom afterwards (at the very least) if you want some peace of mind. My doctor has told me that the epididymitis could have come from a non-STI source like a bladder or urinary tract infection, so again this is all inconclusive and circumstantial. The HIV test at the 3 month mark will provide the definitive answer.
I have also donated some money to your fine organisation. I believe you are a genuinely unique person Dr. Bob and the service (and humour) you provide are beyond words.
I'll let you know how things pan out for me...
All the very best to you...
Thanks for writing and sharing your story.
Regarding condom use, I do not believe there is an "ill advised confidence" in their integrity or ability to prevent HIV!
When a condom fails (breaks), it's generally not a subtle occurrence. Remember, condoms are just an ultra-thin piece of latex stretched tightly over a throbbing tallywhacker. When they break, the latex tears due to intense stretch and friction from the ol' "in-and-out" maneuvering. Mr. Happy's head generally pokes out the condom just like your head pokes out of a turtleneck sweater! Like I said, this is not subtle, nor are you likely not to notice "while flinging" or disposing of the used condom.
I absolutely agree epididymitis can indeed be (and often is) unrelated to an STD! Bacterial seeding of the epididymis can come from a urinary tract infection.
Another point that must be made is that merely "using" a condom is not protective. You have to use it "properly," and that is often not the case! You can review proper condom technique and common ways condoms are misused in the archives.
Regarding your recent symptom flair five weeks after exposure, if your doctor is concerned this represents HIV ARS (acute retroviral syndrome), he could order an APTIMA HIV RNA test, as this test is FDA approved for diagnostic purposes and should be able to identify HIV infection prior to the three-month window period for HIV-antibody testing.
Do write back with your results and I'll post your follow-up for our forum readers.
Thank you for your kind words and support of The Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation (www.concertedeffort.org). Both are warmly appreciated. In return I'm sending you my good-luck/good-health karma that you are now and will always be HIV free.
Good luck. Be well!