Anonymous
Hey, I was hoping you will be able to help me. Last year, I began to go through an HIV panic. I have always practiced safe sex (besides oral sex) but somehow convinced myself I had HIV. I took my first test in January, a few weeks after my last sexual encounter (anal with a condom and gave unprotected oral), but was told to go back 3 months from then, which I did, and still tested negative. The test used were rapid test. In May, I had another sexual encounter, this it was only oral sex and we used a condom. At one point, he rubbed his penis against my anus (didn't go in) and I was afraid that I may have been infected because of that. In July, I tested again with a rapid test and it was negative. Also in the first week of July, I gave protected oral sex to a guy. This was my last sexual incident. Since then, I took 1 rapid test in September (2 months from the encounter), 1 more rapid test at the end of October (a little over 3 months from the encounter), as well as a Ab/Ag HIV blood test, which all tested negative.

Every time I tested, the counselor advised me that I was at low risk (no risk for the protected oral sex) and have been assured, if the test were done after 3 months of the encounter, they are conclusive. However, I keep thinking of "what ifs". Like, what if the condom ripped during oral sex and I didn't know. Or, if I am taking longer than 3 months to test positive for HIV. What if the test was defective and it is a false negative.

Every time I start to feel sick, the fear that the test might have been wrong takes over me. Whether I have a cough, sore throat, or a fever.

Is this typical thinking for someone in this position? Is there anything that I can do that will help me feel like my test or conclusive? I feel like if I take another test, and it's negative, it will just give me temporary relief.
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Anonymous
Hi there, and thanks for contacting the AIDS Vancouver Helpline for you HIV/AIDS related health information. It seems you are questioning the accuracy of some tests you've had after some potential exposures. We're happy to answer your question for you.

It seems as though different healthcare professionals have already tried to assure you that your tests are accurate. 3 months post exposure tests are getting very close to being 100% accurate in their ability to correctly identify positive cases. This is the case whether the condom ripped or not, so we can say with certainty that the tests you've had 3 months after each encounter are very accurate of your present status.

You also say that you are worried that you might be experiencing some symptoms. Please realize that the symptoms of HIV are so common to many other very common medical conditions. Things like a cough, sore throat, or a fever, as you might imagine, are so common that they are really not valuable at all in diagnosing infections. The only way to definitively diagnose an HIV infection is through testing, and you've already gone for testing. So please, if you're concerned about symptoms please see a healthcare provider, but do not try and associate them with a potential HIV infection. Healthcare providers do not use them at all when trying to diagnose infections.

Finally, if tests getting very near 100% accurate are not enough, maybe it's helpful for you to think what it is about an HIV infection that has you worried? HIV positive people would consider learning they are HIV positive to be a major event in their lives, but many soon realize that it is actually one of the more manageable chronic medical conditions out there. With appropriate medication use, people with HIV have virtually undetectable levels in their blood, and are able to live happy and full lives. It really is possible for it to have a very minimal impact on the way you live your life. So perhaps think about what it is that has you so worried about being HIV positive. What are your attitudes toward HIV positive people? Evaluating your attitudes may go a long way in easing how you feel about a potential diagnosis, even if there is very little chance of you being diagnosed yourself.

Thanks for contacting the AIDS Vancouver Helpline with your question. We hope this has eased your worries a bit.

Trevor

AIDS Vancouver Online Helpline

helpline.aidsvancouver.org
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