Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Community
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Avatar universal

HIV anxiety

Let me start off by saying, I'm a 24 year old heterosexual female with very severe OCD and anxiety issues and being raised a child in the 90's when HIV was fairly new to the world, they scared the hell out of us with it in school to the point its actually traumatized me.
My phobia showed up when i was about 17 and as i get older it seems to get worse. As anyone with OCD or a phobia knows, the best way to get rid of it is to face it head on and for the past year thats what i've been trying to do. I've even become a volunteer for my local Aids project and done HIV/AIDS walks to help those who are living with this condition and to show my support, learning everything i can about HIV to lessen the fear. You'd think i'd be doing well right? WRONG

On to my situation:

I'm in dire need of some help here. Several people have told me I'm absolutely crazy, and maybe they're right but I need some real help from people who know what they're talking about.

On May 20th, I attended an AIDS walk thinking this would help my anxieties and to help raise awareness like usual.

while i was there, i noticed they had a testing tent set up where you could get tested for HIV via a rapid test. I had never taken a rapid test before, all my tests had been done the traditional way. I walked up to the tent and was checking it out and an african american man comes up to me and says "are you thinking about getting tested today" i say "yeah" and he leads me into the tent and into a closed off area, closes the curtain behind us, and we sit down while he gets ready. I wasent real sure what to expect so i just sat there kinda nervous. I watched him put on his gloves, clean my finger with a little alcohol pad and
I see him getting supplies out of plastic bags behind him but cant see what he's doing.
he pulls out a unigold test, a suction straw, and two lancets (none of this was packaged together and i didnt see him remove the caps from either lancet)
he looks at one of the lancets odd while holding the other in his hand, sets it on the table, and uses the one in his hand on me. He does the test, its negative, drops the lancet he used on me in a small plastic bucket with others, I ask if i can keep my test since i'd never taken one like that before and he replies "I'd let you have it if i could but its considered bio hazard material and i have to throw it away" and he sends me on my way.

After i think about this, it starts to really freak me out and i get these thoughts running through my head:

"What if the needle wasent clean?"
"What if he was prejudice and intentionally hurt me with a dirty one?"
"What if the needles weren't the ones he was issued, he'd brought in others and they were hollow bore and not sterile"
"He could have made those and used them on me"
"would he take advantage of the fact I said i've never taken a rapid test to infect me"

After a while it ate at me and ate at me and ate at me, to the point my fear had gotten so bad i was vomiting daily from bad nerves thinking i was infected from someone who was suppose to help prevent HIV.

I called the Aids project who put on the walk and asked them about the lancets (before this incident i had no idea what a lancet even was) and they told me all their lancets were single use and i had nothing to worry about. Still. I cant let it go. I found out the man that tested me works with homosexual and bisexual men and again it went through my head that maybe he could have been prejudice against me for being a heterosexual white woman and would have the intent to hurt me.

To this day, im still losing sleep over it, i still cant eat properly and i've been tested 3 times (the last at 38 days prior incident)

My questions are:

-How likely are my chances of contracting anything this way?
-Would anything show up on my antibody tests being a fully healthy person at 38 days?
-Should I let this go?

I'm on new medication for OCD and anxiety but this particular incident just wont go away.
What should i do?!
18 Responses
1699033 tn?1514116733
Hi there and welcome to the OCD forum.

You obviously know what to do for OCD since you have faced your HIV irrational thought process head on in the past.  You know the ways HIV is transmitted...the real facts and not the fictions.  In your heart I'm sure you know that this scenario you have going on is a fiction made up by your own mind.  You have what-iff'd and catastrophized the whole incident which as you know, OCD people are so good at.  

So no, I don't think you are infected. This person was not out to get you.  I have had many lancets used on me just for donating blood, which BTW is another way to put HIV behind you...they test all the blood that is donated.  You saw him put the lancet he used into the proper disposal bin.  For whatever reason, and perhaps maybe because you have had some sort of new stressor in your life, you have fallen back on old habits.  What you need to do is fall back on past positive experiences.  The same way you beat down the HIV irrational thoughts before.  Honestly, you don't even need a test.  

Should you let this go?  Absolutely.  You don't need me to tell you that.  You have been living with OCD long enough to know that.  I'm sure though that at the moment you are feeling that despration...looking for anyway to get closure on this thought.  Been there...it stinks.  Give the medication a good 4 to 6 weeks to build up in your system.  Did they give you a benzodiazepine such as Xanax or Klonopin to help you while the medication is building up?  If not, you may want to discuss this with your doctor.  

Also, if you don't have The OCD Workbook:  YOur Guide to Breaking from of OCD, you may want to think about getting it.  We are never going to be OCD-free but rather we need to have good tools in place to combat it when our minds decide to go to the dark side.  

And BTW...I was a teenager in the late 70s, early 80s...I know exactly what you are talking about.  I had HIV irrational thoughts as well and they kind of came and went for a few years.  Eventually I had to sit in an AIDS clinic where I work during my lunch hour to really get over the fact that you can't just get it from touching some surface or sitting in a chair or being in a room with an AIDS patient.  You did the right thing facing it head on.  Now do the same thing here.  It is just an obsessive mind game we play on ourselves.  

Take care and I hope you feel better soon.  Post again if you need anything else.  That is what we are here for.  :)  
Avatar universal
I know exactly where you are coming from. I am 30 years old and I feel like my generation was given so much scary information about HIV and how it is contracted that is no longer valid, but it is hard to get those ideas out of our head.
2083175 tn?1336085912
Good for you for helping out in the AIDS project and for walking to support a cure. You may have been doing that to help your OCD, but I am sure that on the end you feel much better for doing it. Not only for your  OCD but as a person doing good in the world.

I understand where you are coming from. I understand your fears. And for the way it sounds you understand your fears as well. You did so well in the past with your fears and you know the facts, so fall back on those. Find the comfort you are seeking in your knowledge.

You are no way at risk. You preceived a risk from the unknown. Perhaps because he looked at the lancet in an odd way your radar went off and the thoughts went through your head. He may have looked at it in an odd way becuase perhaps it was broken. I have a hard time believing that anyone would intentionally infect someone. I suppose anything is possible, but I really don't want to believe the world is that cruel.

You came to the right place with your OCD questions. It seems to me that you know you are not really at any risk, and that you are seeking reassuance which we all do to help us through our anxiety filled moments. I also know the fear and it is a horrible thing to deal with. Know that you are not alone. We are here to help you through the OCD struggle.
Avatar universal
thank you all. It makes me feel good to know i'm actually welcome here amongst people who go through what i go through.

Sadly I've delt with some really rude people about all this lately.
I tried to join a facebook group for people who live with HIV/AIDS and i told them my situation, that i lived with OCD and a phobia and that i wanted to understand their condition and know their story, how they lived their lives, etc, so i could understand this all a lil more so i could prove to myself i didnt have anything to fear, then i could help people living with the disease right?
I figured if i at least had a friend with it it would open my eyes and put a damper on the fear. Then i could be of help because i understood them.
They all seemed very supportive of me, talked to me for a day or so, and then one girl turns on me and says my questions are rude, that people dont want to talk about this and what not. So they ALL ended up turning on me and agreeing with her and made me feel so uncomfortable i left the group and deleted all my comments, i swear i didnt ask or say anything derogatory to a single person.

i also addressed a forum for those who had feared they had been infected with HIV and told them my situation and a lady flipped out on me and said that the only reason i was there was for some cheap form of therapy for myself, that i shouldnt even consider being around people with AIDS because they know when someone is scared of them and their condition and that i "Needed to get my **** together" and get some real help as she worded it.

Im like "omg what is WRONG with these people, i mean i understand they're sensitive of their condition but if you arent willing to talk about it and help someone fearful of it become educated theres always gonna be a stigma against it because they dont understand!"

All i wanted to do was understand and help others in the process of helping myself cope with a fear. They dont realize that my OCD is just as real as their HIV. Its incurable, and you have to take medication and it makes life hard as well.

Yesterday i also had a lady who does HIV testing at our clinic flip out on me, and i've never met someone so hateful in all my life for no reason.
She was so hateful that if i were to contract this disease, i'd probably let it kill me before i'd deal with her again.
I've decided against doing volunteer work with anyone living with HIV because all these people have been so mean its made me not even want to be around them at all.

Its made me wonder why in the hell i fear death so much when the world is full of people like this, and these are people who are ill!

For the time being, i'm taking medication daily and fighting this battle alone once more.
480448 tn?1426952138
Ok, for one, you have to understand that, even though you may not have made any derogatory comments, it can be quite frustrating to deal with someone with OCD relating to HIV.  I've been a regular contributor on our HIV forum here for over 4 years, and we get A LOT of people with HIV anxiety and OCD.  The problem is, no answer is ever good enough...the questions keep coming and coming, and it's is as if they never read any of the answers they were given.  Of course you already know you could "what if" all day long.  I recommend that people seek professional help all the time, for those who seem to really be struggling, and even that falls on deaf ears most times.  So, while it's fine to seek info, if all you're doing is coming back with more and more questions, or worse, the same question asked 1000 different ways, it CAN get quite frustrating.

Like you said, people without OCD don't fully understand the struggles you go through, so I wouldn't just automatically assume everyone is just being rude, like I said above...it goes beyond that.  Plus, some people with HIV are extra sensitive about the subject.

My advice to you is to really keep up with the professional help.  Are you on any meds?  They really can be life changing.  I wouldn't suggest volunteering at any type of AIDS clinic just yet...it's a fabulous idea, but I don't think your OCD is manageable enough to take on such a lofty goal.  Work your way up to that, with therapy, meds, whatever it takes.

Oh!  I just saw that you're taking medication.  Perhaps you need to reevaluate your medication regimen with your doctor, if your symptoms aren't very controlled.  Of course, you'll never be FREE of OCD, but it can definitely be better managed than it is for you right now.

Very best of luck to you!
Avatar universal
But see thats what made it so weird, i didnt ask these people "what if" about anything, i didnt ask them 4 million annoying questions, i just asked how their condition affected their life basically. i didnt ask any questions about if you could get it this way or this way or this way. I asked very basic questions. But it backfired on me and they flipped out on me. That part i dont understand.
Avatar universal
Don't blame yourself,alot of people who have HIV are angry with the world and their attitude is less than humble,they think people owe them something and have to feel sorry for them,there are worse diseases than HIV and more common yet these people humble and happy when people assist them in some way like cancer patients,etc.There are also people with HIV who enjoy spreading the virus to as many people as they can and we have seen this from both infected men and women in the media.If they are not going to appreciate your help and genuine care then forget them,they did it to themselves.I have HIV+ friends so I know they are not all like that but there have been some infected people that are so selfish and expect the world to stop just for them--if you want to help maybe help the infected children,they are innocent and never asked for this disease.I think that would help yur OCD but don't waste your time with people who are just selfish and rude.
Avatar universal
Believe me, after the people i've delt with I dont want anything to do with it anymore. I mean its seriously been ridiculous.

The only thing i'm worried about now is my possible exposure.

everyones told me i have nothing to worry about, its not possible, they were there to test you not infect you, etc

i just cant let it go.
Avatar universal
You never had a risk being tested so I wouldn't worry about that but please don't waste your time with people who are angry with the world because of their own mistakes.They even have the nerve to take it out on people that want to help them,like I said I have HIV+ friends and even they have said many times that there are alot of HIV+ people around who don't appreciate anything others do for them and infact start turning on the very people that want to help them--you know what I say--forget them.
Avatar universal
agreed dude. It just blows me away people can be so hateful for no reason at all.
Avatar universal
Like I said don't waste your time.
1699033 tn?1514116733
You are trying to get closure on this one little part of OCD that you have.  The key is to treat the OCD and the rest will follow.  If you have only been taking the medication for a short time, then you may not be seeing the benefits.  Give it at least 4 weeks before you decide it isn't helping you.  And I agree with Nursegirl....this is the time to take care of yourself and get yourself back together and then you can move on to helping others in need.  

What unfortunately happens is that we, in an effort to get some kind of closure to the desperation we are feeling, will do anything to get to that point.  I know you didn't mean to make these people mad but you have to understand that they are living with it...you are not...you never will unless you really put yourself at risk.  So if you look at it from their perspective, then you can see where they are coming from.  They don't understand what it is like to live with OCD and we don't understand what it is like to live with HIV.  We could try our level best to explain it, but unless you are actually living with either one of these disorders/diseases it is pretty much impossible to explain.  

So concentrate on yourself right now.  You are in no danger of having HIV and so you need to work on getting the OCD under control.  

Take care.  
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