Hi all... I've never posted on these forums before but I was actively reading everybody's posts when I was going through crippling HIV anxiety. I just wanted to tell you my story in hope that this will encourage people to get tested. I will try and keep it as short as I can without missing any detail.
HIV anxiety for me all started at the tender age of 18. I went traveling with my best friend which was meant to be the best year of my life. Anyway, we were in South Africa and I became really close with a black man in his twenties. Cutting this part of the story short we ended up having protected sex, however, the condom came off and there was about 20 seconds of unprotected penetration. Being at the age of 18 I wasn't aware of dangers and sort of felt invincible in life. Anyway the next evening a group of us were at the bar and one of the guys friends asked if I had slept with Ben (the South African guy I slept with) and told me 'I hope you were careful, HIV rates in South Africa are higher than any other country in the world'. Instantly, I was convinced that Ben was HIV positive. I know this sounds dumb but I had never really heard of the disease before and sex ed at school literally consistented of pregnancy processes and common STI's. As you can imagine, this caused mayhem in my mind. A few days later I plucked up the courage and asked Ben if he was HIV positive and he assured me he wasn't. Of course, I told myself he was lying and why would he tell mere was positive??? Anyway I did some research and found out online that there's a 3 month window and that all HIV tests are conclusive after 3 months of the exposure. As you can imagine, this ruined the next 3 months of my travels and in my mind I had contracted this virus. So, moving on 3 weeks we were in Thailand. This part of the story I don't want to go into great detail but I was raped by an American man in his late 20's. This ruined and broke me. I won't talk about the trauma of the rape but I will say this: I thought my life was over. Once an outgoing and fun loving young girl, I was afraid of everything and everyone and everything was a threat. I thought I was going to die from AIDS and started preparing for my final years. I became a recluse and my life was tipped upside down. When people talk about anxiety, trust me I understand whole heartedly.
Despite these two HIGH RISK exposures, I was too scared to get tested when the three month mark came. I told myself I would rather not know and I accepted that I would die young. Now, I'm 24 years old now and have been living in hell ever since.
I started to develop every HIV symptom according to google. Here were my symptoms over the past 5-6 years that I DIDNT have before these 2 instances: rapid weight loss, yeast infections, recurrent mouth ulcers, stomach problems and diarrhoea, both toe and finger nail fungus infections, dry skin and eczema, swollen lymph nodes and hot sweats at night and I was always catching colds. To anyone reading this... HIV positive right?
Anyway, I got to a point about 6 months ago where I was suicidal. I eventually sought help and started having councilling sessions. The aim of these sessions was to finally pluck up the courage, have the test to confirm what I already knew and deal with the positive result. The only thing that was giving me strength was that I thought my allowing myself to develop AIDS was selfish on my friends and family (no one knew i was suffering). Moving on 5 months, I finally had the test done. I was a state. Hyperventilating, my skin developed red hot rashes and my anxiety levels were through the roof. Before I did the test my Dr told me that catching HIV is actually quite difficult and in most cases you need to have been sleeping with an infected person over and over again to catch it. I told him my symptoms and he told me that that was my stress and anxiety that I had been living with for so long, and was CONVINCED that I wouldn't have it. I was so angry. How dare he dismiss my 2 incidences and tell me that my symptoms weren't 'real'. He told me that yes, of course blood work is the only way to know for sure but he just didn't seem worried at all, which actually made my anxiety worse even though I know he was just trying to be calm for me. Anyway guess what, the doctor called me the next morning and told me that my results were NEGATIVE and that my full blood works were perfectly normal and that I was extremely healthy. I cried and cried and cried, for firstly the relief but secondly, because I had wasted and ruined the last 6 years of my life... My prime years. He told me that long term stress I.e. More than a few years really can cause all sorts of 'symptoms' and that I was suffering from PTSD and OCD as a result of the rape.
I guess I wanted to put my story out there in hope that this will help somebody. I cannot stress this enough, PLEASE JUST GET THE TEST. It took me 6 years so I KNOW the fear. DO NOT GOOGLE SYMPTOMS. EVERYTHING is linked to HIV/AIDS, I seriously mean that. I know how tempting it is, I used to spend 3hours a day googling symptoms. Please don't do what I have done and waste away so much time and ruined friendships and relationships. Please, it breaks my heart knowing that other people are going through what I've been through. I would love to talk to anyone who needs some help or guidance - my email address is sophie.***@****.
Thanks for reading and big love to you all.