May 04, 2009
The one thing that I learned from my own experience with HIV anxiety as well as from helping others here that I thought I should share is the power of "What if?" thoughts to trump logic and completely derail someone, and how this can be overcome. They almost always fall into the same themes of 'exceptional circumstance'. What if the condom broke or failed and I didn't know? What if I am the 1 in a million that the doctor referred to? What if I am one of the few that don't produce antibodies at three months? What if (insert your own overly imaginative scenario for getting infected here)? These thoughts lead to a sense of danger, which produce anxiety symptoms and a heightened awareness of normal body features and sensations, the person makes the wrong connection between the anxiety symptoms and the body features/sensations and HIV from his/her internet 'research', and the whole thing just feeds on itself and progresses to a downward spiral. It is really the same pattern over and over.
My advice for people in that situation is that if you can't accept the answers you receive after posting your question in either of the HIV forums, then read the expert forum archives. It is clear that many people with HIV anxiety need reinforcement for logic and reasoning to gain the upper hand. The original answer and reasonable clarifications are never enough for these people. However, the best way to get that reinforcement is to just read multiple threads that are similar to your situation, NOT badger the volunteers who are dedicated to this site by repeating the same question over and over. Certainly, almost every possible sexual exposure that one can imagine has already been asked there multiple times. It's really best to limit yourself to this site; you will inevitably find conflicting information that upsets you if you search elsewhere.
Reading multiple answers helps you learn that your specific situation, however unique and special you think it is, really is just 'yet another' version of the same no risk or very low risk situation that the doctors have seen time and time again. The key lesson that is learned that helps you to move on is that you are NOT the exception.
Finally, you should know that your awareness of HIV that brought you to this site is a blessing that can go a long way in protecting yourself in the future. Just use it wisely.