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Avatar universal

HIV panic - my story

First of all thanks to MedHelp for some very good forums and good advice to people concerned about their risk of HIV infection.

I think it is all too rare that we hear about the actual outcomes of people's HIV tests. I suspect it may be because posters - after receiving their negative HIV test, lose interest in the subject and return to life - which is a good thing! :)

However, I wanted to provide my story since some worries might find reassurance in it since I had a lot of strange symptoms in close proximity to the sexual encounter that triggered my anxiety.

During 2009 I had 4 encounters of unprotected oral sex gay men (I'm a gay man myself). All cases were without ejaculation but with precum at least in the case of the last such encounter which was in December 2009. I had had an HIV test in January 2009 which was negative.
Exactly one mouth after the last exposure I developed sore throat with fever (~38,5C). Not only that, I also got some strange infection in the corner of my mouth, forming some type of yellow sore/crust. Even more worringly this spread to my chin. I went to my GP who said it looked like impetigo (definitely not herpes). To those of you who don't know about impetigo, it is a bacterial infection of the skin (either staph of strep). Most common in children but occationally seen in adults, especially with weakened immune system. A strep test from the throat was negative. He said he thought it was probably the cold that had weakened my immune system so I had caught impetigo. This sounded a bit scary in itself since the fear of HIV always lingers in the back of the mind - especially one month after a sexual encounter! He gave me a cream with an antibiotic to apply to the sores. They went away within 2 days. The fever went away approx. 72 hours after I first noticed it and I was back to work.

It was the encounter in December I was most worried about. Since I thought my encounter in December was relatively low risk and since the fever and the sores had gone away quite fast and since the symptoms were not very specific of acute HIV infection I concluded it probably wasn't anything serious.

Then in March I developed a bad flu. Fever >39,5 C and bad cough and somewhat sore throat. I was extremely tired all the time. I want to note that a close friend of mine and my mother got the flu around the same time even though I thought it was a quite unlikely time to get the flu. Like in the case in January I didn't notice any other special systems like a rash. My glands on the neck might have been swollen. The fever etc. went away over 5 days but the cough lingered for several weeks after.

At some point while sick with the flu I started to relate these symptoms with that I had experienced in January. Since neither of the disease episodes were very specific for ARS (acute HIV infection), I developed this theory that what I experienced in Januar might have been either a milder case of ARS (without rash or very high fever) but with greatly weakened immune system which had caused me to acquire the cold and the impetigo, which is known to show up when you have a weakened immune system. To my horror, I read that impetigo is very frequent in people with HIV though a nurse I talked to, working with HIV/AIDS patients, said she had never heard of it though she clearly knew a lot about this and other skin conditions. And trust me, I could tell, because I had read a lot about it too!

After the flu was gone, I started poking my glands on my neck and they of course swell and became very painful. I also developed night sweats, where I would wake up thinking of HIV, soaked in sweat. I felt sick worrying about it all the time. I also lost some weight to the extent that a friend commented on it. I developed dry, itchy skin on my arms (and yes if you google hiv+dry skin you can quickly convince yourself this is a sign of HIV!), noticed all kinds of red spots on my legs, I caught another cold and developed a low-grade fever from that in addition to sore throat (temp: 37,6-38,0 C).I felt as sick as I had ever felt from any disease - the subjective feeling of illness was the worst but as mentioned there were some "objective" signs as well such as the fever. It was driving me crazy. I couldn't think of anything but HIV. Couldn't concentrate on anything.

There was only one thing to do: Get tested. I wouldn't say I was 100% sure I had HIV. I didn't really know what to think. On the other hand, everyone told me it was 'low risk' but on the other hand the symptoms seemed to match an immunocompromised person! So I went to a well-renowed clinic to get tested. They were very friendly at the clinic and while they tried to offer their reassurances on the day I got tested, I was so far out that I couldn't believe anything of what anyone was saying about the HIV risk. I thought my case was special, an unlucky case of oral transmission and the development of an immunocompromised condition immediately as part of ARS.
So I got the test (full battery of all STD tests) and called in 3 days later - today - and thankfully they had some of the testing results including HIV. I immediately took a cap there. Thankfully the result was negative. It was such a big relief. I feel much better and the horrible sick feeling is gone though I'm a bit tired after so many nights with poor - and benzodiazepine-assisted - sleep. It's almost as if I haven't totally relalized that this is now over and I don't have to think of it anymore. The test was a 4th generation HIV-1/HIV-2 combined Ab/Ag so it is supposed to be extremely reliable.

This experienced has taught me so much stuff. It shows how powerful the mind can be in affecting how we feel and even what physical symptoms we have. I believe that stress and worry over HIV/AIDS can make you sicker than the worst disease. I know some people who happen to have HIV/AIDS to are perfectly healthy and I'm quite sure I was looking like the walking dead during this experience! I also learned that you can always find something wrong on the body - some strange spot on the skin, a swollen lymph node etc. and you can always associate your findings with HIV/AIDS if you really want to. Just google just about any symptom in combination with terms like HIV, AIDS, acute HIV etc. and you can find people discussing this. Or you can come up with some biological plausible explanation of why HIV might cause this. If you gain weight on the stomach you can assocaite that with HIV, if you lose weight that can be a sign of it. If you experience immuno-compromise that can be a sign, but so can diseases related to inflammation etc. etc. I could write much more about this but I hope you can see my point.

Sorry to all you worried people out there, don't assume you have HIV no matter what symptoms you have or how horrible you feel. But do the testing since worrying so much is very unhealthy in itself. And if you turn out to be positive, treatments today are so good that you can life a perfectly normal life and get the career, family etc. you want to have. And who knows what treatments (or cures?) might come up in the future?

During the entire episode I prayed to God he would help me despite of my sins. It certainly reliefed some of the anxiety though I was clearly very nervous at time - and the test turned out negative which I'm so grateful for! :-) I really hope the experienece will make me a better person and I will focus more on friends, family and health values rather than work and materialistic values. And I will start being more grateful for being so lucky to be born in the rich world where HIV tests and treatments, should it be necessary, are available. Not to mention food, shelter, general health care etc.

And of course take care of yourself out there! And best wishes for anyone out there going through some of the same or to those who are living with HIV/AIDS.
9 Responses
1163575 tn?1339482217
Avatar universal
i know what youve been through mate as ive been there myseelf and now im back here again ;( but i should be OK according to most people ive also had few of the symptoms u have had and its relaxed me knowing your ok stay safe mate all the best
Avatar universal
Beautiful Kenz, beautiful!
186166 tn?1385262982
pretty much the same story as every other poster here...
Avatar universal

Funny to see how all my posts generate negative comments by the Lizzie etc.  I always try to be objective and wish everyone would :)
Avatar universal
Pray 4 me too.am waiting 4 another 5wks 2 get conclusively. cheers
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