Intense fear of HIV infection even with very low-risk behavioral patterns.. HELP!!!

Question

Dr. Frascino, first of all, thank you for what you are doing with this site. It is so wonderful to see a site that addresses issues both rational and irrational.. LOL.

I am a gay male, 26 years of age. I have had an intense, sometimes irrational fear of HIV ever since Magic Johnson revealed his status when I was 9 years old. I would ask my mother as a child if I had HIV when I got a stomach ache. I am a sexually active individual, however I never have anal sex, either protected or unprotected. If I hookup with someone, it usually consists of masturbation and oral sex, both insertive and receptive... I ALWAYS ask someone's status, and pay very close attention to their answer, and only hookup with people on an occasional basis. I do not sleep with those who are known to be positive. I do not allow guys I hookup with to ejaculate in my mouth, and have never done so. I realize that oral sex presents a low risk for infection even with ejaculate present. I maintain very good oral health and never brush or floss immediately prior to sexual activity.

I cannot get over my fear of HIV infection. I have been tested for HIV probably 10 times in the past 6 months. Of course every time it comes back negative, but I still can't shake this debilitating fear. Is it a stigma? Something I have not accepted about myself and my sexuality yet? Do I feel like HIV is the inevitable punishment for every gay man? I was brought up Mormon, so I have some stigmas about being gay, but I also appreciate my upbringing. This has become very hard for me, as it has driven me to constant preoccupation with this fear. I am very educated about HIV, and know the transmission routes... PLEASE OFFER SOME HELP!!! I don't know what to do to shake this fear. It is driving me insane. I am also going to donate to your foundation. Thank you so much for all that you do.

-David

Answer

Hi David,

You correctly identified your problem when you wrote: "I cannot get over my fear of HIV infection." The key word there is "fear" not HIV. Why were you so freaked out about HIV as a nine-year-old? I can only guess because of the whacked-out notions of Joseph Smith and his equally whacked-out followers. (Sorry, but following the Mormons' unconscionable behavior during California's recent Prop 8 initiative, I'm not feeling particularly "Christian" toward the "Latter-Day Saints" and their message of hate and fear.)

If indeed you feel like HIV is the inevitable punishment for every gay man, you must have learned this poppycock somewhere, perhaps at home or more likely at one of those ridiculous Mormon Temples that look like they belong in the Merry Old Land of Oz. Certainly your preoccupation with testing (10 times in 6 months!) is not helping to quell your irrational fears. You need psychological counseling to help you confront and eventually conquer these totally unwarranted fears. Gays and lesbians are not deserving of "inevitable punishment." Rather they are deserving of equality, peace and happiness, and that includes you David.

Good luck. Be well. Be happy.

Dr. Bob