That unmistakable Catholic guilt.

Question

Hello Dr Bob, I am a 20 yr old female. Been reading your forum for ... hmmm... probably 2 years now. Been in a monogamous relationship for 3 years. I tested negative a year and a half ago. My boyfriend has only been with one other girl before me and he used a condom. Before my boyfriend I was very promiscuous and I seem to have dermatitis issues and sores in my mouth frequently. I can't stop feeling guilty for being promiscuous before and engaging in unsafe sex. I tested negative at least 18 months past unprotected exposures but cant help thinking that my negative results were wrong and that somehow maybe my results got mixed up with another persons. I am obsessed with HIV and I constantly check myself for symptoms. It's driving me insane. I want to go get tested so much, but I am scared that maybe I really am positive and I have to tell my family. I am at a point in my life that I am mature enough to realize my mistakes and I want to kick myself in the head (probably would have if it were possible) because of how naive I was about stds. I am scared that if I am positive my big Catholic and also very traditional asian family won't accept me. Whenever they have mentioned anything in the news about AIDS, they are very misinformed about it. So I am worried that they wont allow me to come to family functions anymore or hold their babies. I feel so depressed. I want to believe that I just have OCD, but many times I think maybe I am just infected and I have OCD. I don't know what to do. I spend most of my evenings being forlorn, crying at night, and reading this forum is the only thing that can cheer me up temporarily. I feel so alone.

Answer

Hello,

Being obsessed with HIV and constantly checking oneself for symptoms can indeed drive someone right into the loony bin. If you are "mature enough to realize your mistakes," you should also be mature enough to attend to your medical problems. You need counseling to help you confront and cope with your irrational HIV fears.

Regarding your "big Catholic and also very traditional Asian family" that is so misinformed about HIV/AIDS, I think you have an excellent opportunity to enlighten them concerning the epidemic. Visit the "Asian HIV/AIDS Organizations" link on this site to get culturally sensitive and specific information, and then talk openly with your family. The Catholic Church is a bigger problem, but I'd suggest bringing it up there as well.

I have no doubts that you are HIV negative. Being depressed and anxious will not resolve your problem. Get the help you need and then help others by becoming involved in dispelling "misinformation."

Good luck.

Dr. Bob