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Avatar universal

HIV Scare in Houston

To Forum Doctor,

I am writing to get advice on potential HIV exposure that I may have had.   I am in my first year of college in Houston, Texas.  And I feel that I have done something which may cost me my life.  I can
25 Responses
239123 tn?1267647614
Well, by the time I got to your question, you had an earful of pretty accurate assessments and reommendations from several forum users.

You are focusing on mere coincidence.  First, your symptoms don't sound particularly like ARS, regardless of what you have read.  For example, nobody with ARS gets a runny/stuffy nose.  You got a cold or allergy, nothing more.  Two events that happen near each other in time aren't necessarily causally related.

Second, your sexual exposure was safe.  Even if the woman you had sex with was HIV positive and you didn't use a condom, your risk of getting HIV probalbly is around 1 in 1000.  And the odds probably are 100 to one she didn't have HIV (in most commercial sex workers in the US, around 1% are infected).  And you did use a condom, which is virtually 100% protective when properly used and it doesn't break.

Specific replies to your questions:

1) Does this sound like ARS?  No.  Your doctor was right.

2) You didn't need the PCR test; I would have recommended against it.  In fact, I would have recommended against any HIV test at all, including the standard antibody test, except for the fact that you'd be a basket case without having the lab test confirmation--in other words, I would have tested you only for your peace of mind, not because I suspected you were infected.  Nevertheless, the negative PCR result provides further reassurance you don't have HIV.

3) I'm not terribly familiar with the quantitative PCR test.  In fact, I have never ordered one on a patient.  But I believe your doctor is right.

4) No; see above.

5) If you will sleep better having even more negative test results, feel free to test yourself as much as you want.  The official recommendation from most experts is to have a test at 3 months; but in fact virtually all infected persons are positive by 6 weeks, with modern tests.  (We're talking here about the standard antibody test, not PCR.)

Definitely do not go surfing the web for more information. You will find much more information that alarms rather than reassures you.  This really is not worth losing any sleep over.  You're fine.

Good luck--  HHH, MD
97676 tn?1340405373
You have nothing to worry about.  Using a condom protects against HIV transmission making the possibility of you having HIV ZERO, non existent!  If I were you, I would do some reading in this forum to help ease your mind and anxiety.  You will find that the doctor has answered several questions similar to yours.  

You may be showing symptoms of a cold, allergies, or even anxiety, but its not ARS.  HHH MD will better clerify this for you, but you are ok.  People always assume that sickness or illness after a sexual encounter is a sign of something bad.  Anxiety tends to highlight symptoms that one may experience throughout their lifetime, such as a slight muscle ache, or a commom cold, making them think they aquired an STD. Quit worrying.  I doubt HHH MD will even suggest another HIV test.

Stay in school and stay away from those massage parlors.  There's plenty of fine ladies in college, just keep up the good practice of using condoms.
Avatar universal
Just to clarify about my ARS symptoms:  The symtpoms in the groin that I experienced exactly TWO days after the massage parlor rendevouz was ONE lump in the groin area (most likely a lmyph node).  

Thank you,

Avatar universal
Hello Collegeboy.

I know the panic that you are going through, but try to calm down. You are scared and upset and you are not thinking rationally.

1) You used a condom.
2) 1 episode of vaginal sex UNPROTECTED is low risk.
3) 1 episode of vaginal sex PROTECTED is off the radar.
4) Sex worker = someone that knows how to protect themselves.

I bet she wouldn't have had unprotected with you. She probably worries about becoming infected from a client just like you worry about becoming infected from her.

I know how you feel. Two years ago I also went to a massage parlor and received unprotected oral.

I freaked. I convinced myself that I had every STD and HIV and that I was going to die and infect my wife. Guilt will make you crazy. After a year of torment 5 HIV tests and three doctor visits and 3 STD screens I found out that I was okay.

I didn't contract anything from the encounter!  I wasted a year of my life worrying about nothing. I wasn't paying attention and had an accident and broke 4 bones, had what my doctor called tension headaches, and then broke out in Shingles on the upper part of my body. (My Dr. said stress caused them).

Not to mention I almost lost my job due to lack of concentration.

Please don't let that happen to you. You are safe.

I vowed never to go back to a place like that again. I haven't  since then and never will. The stress is not worth 10 minutes of pleasure!

Good luck to you my friend. I hope you feel better soon!
Avatar universal
Thanks, I'm sort of still freaking out.

I keep reading all this language about condoms being "very effective," and whatnot.  Geex, what the hec is "very effective?"  We are talking about an incurable disease (HIV), not something that you can take 10-day course of antibiotics.  

I'll stay in school, but seriously, all joking aside, now that I'm HIV positive, who cares about girls in college.  I sealed my fate by going to the massage parlor, and now I'll be paying for it for the rest of my life.

I'm not writing anymore.  This is way too upsetting for me.


97676 tn?1340405373
College boy, many of us are going through the same thing you are.  Many of us are in a more serious situation than you.  You have nothing to worry about.  Try to relax.  Wait for the Docs response.  Dr. HHH MD is one of the best docs on the net, if not in the world.  You will surely be able to rely on his words.
Avatar universal
So, if I had a "true risk," people here would tell me.  Maybe my primary doctor was right when she told me to "forget about all this."
Avatar universal

Your risk was very low - I would say nonexistent! Relax mate! If your PCR test at 10 days comes back undetected (and it will!) just forget about it - enjoy life and college and be comfortable with the fact that you do not have HIV. Extreme anxiety maybe - but not HIV. I went through a similar experience you can read the threads below except a bit more high risk) and I was in a nervous wreck. Found out my 13 day PCR test was undetected and my anxiety level has decreased about 100,000 times from what it was. Although PCR for HIV DNA is not definitive till 28 days, an undetected result at 10 days is extremely reasurring. Don't waste anymore money on PCR tests - they are horribly expensive (trust me I know) - if the 10 day test comes out negative you are OK and just wait till 6 weeks to have an antibody to confirm (but that will be negative also). Take care mate!
Avatar universal
Also CB - if you want information on PCR Testing search the thread under "PCR Testing". I aksed a pretty detailed question to HHH which he answered which should reasure you. Also there is a thread below by me which is entitled "Is test reliable" on 9/1/05 which also addresses some questions about PCR DNA testing.
Avatar universal
So, I can ignore all this ONE lump in my groin business that started 2 days after the incident, went away, and came back a week later??

I never thought that my first experience would be so anxiety provoking.  I really felt like dropping out of college from all of this horrible anxiety and experience.

Thank you,

Avatar universal
The lump in your groin means nothing. Ignore it or see a doc about your general health, but forget about HIV.

At your age you have more to worry about from being shot in the head by all the people in Texas who own guns. Put it in perspective.

There are people in the world who face real and present HIV risk -- people who had unprotected sex repeatedly, people who shot up on heroin, people who had blood transfusions, kids born to people who had HIV. You are not one of those people. Last year, over 40,000 such people got infected with HIV in the United States, most of them poor, many with no health insurance. They need help. Why not take all this nervous energy and volunteer for an AIDs hospice or an outreach program? Raise funds for Gay Men's Health Crisis or a local AIDs council. If you're in college there are tons of such agencies on campus.

Help deliver laundry for someone on AIDs, write a letter to Kay Bailey Hutchinson urging her to introduce new spending on AIDs research in the Senate, distribute condoms outside a gay club, or assist in a free needle exchange. Volunteer work will put you in contact with people much more at risk than you, & teach you the real statistics about this disease.

Avatar universal
Those are excellent suggestions!!
Avatar universal
To collegeboy: To put into perspective the rarity of HIV in the States and other western countries come to South Africa which has approx 28% HIV infection throughout population, now those statistics give reason for HIV anxiety. To JohhnyV; In previous threads you seem to have consulted thebody.com. Don't you find their advice a bit radical, there are doctors there that are still advising the 6 month testing guideline. With the exception of dr. bob they pratically diagnose people with any hint of HIV symptoms coming from South Africa I find it strange that "experts" opinions vary so widely in the States.
Avatar universal

You're right, expert opinions in the US tend to implode on each other sometimes. When something serious is at stake, like HIV, my philosophy is to weigh at least a few different sources and go with the most conservative but grounded option; for me, for instance, that's a 3-month guideline, even though some people feel OK about 6 weeks. My gut tells me Dr. Handsfield is right and 6 weeks is enough, but since the two other online sources I trust almost as much as Dr. H -- Dr. Bob and Dr. K -- both nix any talk of the 6 week timeframe, I just go with 12 weeks to be sure. Especially since I've never seen Dr. H tell a gay male -- the highest risk scenario -- to rely on a test 6 weeks after unprotected sex (oral or anal).

About thebody.com, have you taken a look at the date on the webpage you found with the 6-month time frame? I think that website tends not to retire old pages. I remember finding one page on thebody.com from a Dr. Sowadzky that advised 6 months, but then I realized it was posted in 1998. Check the dates on things. Definitely, in the last couple years, nobody on there has advised 6 months.

In their defense, it WAS 6 months for a long, long time, and I"m just getting used to 3 months as a timeline, so it took a lot for me to trust it. I remember vividly my first time getting tested in the Bronx in the summer of 1992. I had to wait 6 months from the time I was exposed to the time I called to make an appointment. I had to wait 5 weeks for an appointment. Then it took 5 weeks to get the results. The counselor told me they were only about 95% reliable and I might have to wait a year. Back then, if you got HIV you got AIDs quickly and most people with AIDs died. It was scary and in the Bronx it almost felt apocalyptic. Many black and Latino men like myself were bisexual but knew nothing about how to prevent infection, and had no way of getting info on it.

I don't want to sound bitchy, but when you think of that, waiting 3 months is a cake walk, especially now that HIV is a manageable disease and people can live 20 years with it.

About being from South Africa and constantly attracting suspicion, I understand your frustration. Remember that these online experts are thinking in large panoramic terms, like epidemiologists. They plug you into statistical models that make sense for global demographics but don't necessarily reflect you. Once in a while I get a little irritated by the fact that an expert will tell a straight guy, "don't worry, you'll never get it" even if he had unprotected vaginal sex; and then in the next breath, tell a gay or bisexual male, "oh my God, you got a blowjob from someone you met at a night club, get tested today, get tested 90 days from now, get tested forever!!!!!" But then I have to step back and remember, doctors who do that are, in their own way, trying to care about men who have sex with men, and there's a tenderness underneath it that they aren't showing to straight men -- maybe the straight guys should feel slighted, not me. Maybe the guys on thebody.com are favoring African forum members by showing them more attention. Just don't let yourself feel stigmatized and live in fear.

Avatar universal
I appreciate your intelligent commentary. I of course had to post this comment here, because the other thread would'nt allow any further comments.

I do not have Malice in my heart, (unlike the person that infected me if she knew she was POZ), so I would never lie about anything like this. You sound very intelligent, and maybe if I had involved myself in more extra-curricular activities such as yourself, than maybe I wouldn't be in this predicament. But it is real unfortunatly. I am a good person who made a bed decision with the wrong person, and I am the one that has to pay for my indiscretion.

Again, I thank you.
Avatar universal

What about my one swollen groin node TWO days after my experience, which lasted a few days?  Does that change any of your advice?  Or the fact that 12 days (give or take a few) afterward, I'm experiencing slight discomfort ONLY on my left groin area (maybe there's swelling there).
Avatar universal
I apologize.  I'm immature, and I allowed my intense fear of HIV to get the best of me.  It matters not whether anyone else on this Forum is lying.  I should be focusing on my concern, and let everyone be, and contribute in a good fashion when and if I can.


Avatar universal

Mackia: I know people with HIV and they've lived a long time with no signs of mortality any time soon. The trick is that they've modified their behavior, taken their meds like clockwork, exercised, and managed their stress levels. It is my belief that a cure will come in 15-20 years, and you can make it until then. Best wishes.

College Boy: No need to apologize. I understand what stress can do to people.

Avatar universal
JohnnyV - You mentioned that you knew people living with HIV. Do you know if they started thier HAART medication right away. I haven't had a full exam, just the ELISA that confirmed my status. I have to have a viral load test done among other things. My main concern is the toxicity of the drug and the harm to my liver & kidneys.

collegeboy - Again, this is real and I hope you forgive me. I wasn't trying to scare anyone. You just be safe out there. And wear a condom no matter what....
Avatar universal

I'm nervous about posting any information about my friends' approaches to their HIV status, because this is a sensitive area of medicine and you MUST get the counsel of a doctor who knows what he's doing.

Forget any previous spats you may have had with Dr. HHH on previous threads, and just post a new one and ask him for some frank advice about how to proceed. Then get in to see a doctor ASAP. The testing site should have referred you to a specialist immediately. I wonder where you live and why they didn't do that; in New York it would be like negligence not to do a referral on the spot.

Having said that, I can tell you that my friends all had varying timelines of treatments. They all got infected in the AZT days when it was a mystery. They were also gay, poor, and extremely lonely, and it took a long time for them to scale back on drugs like K, crystal, X, coke, and poppers, all of which they took while having sex with multitudes of strangers. Because their doctors feared that they were getting exposed from multiple sources, possibly had different strains of the virus, and suffered from generally bad health because of drugs and other simultaneous infections, they chose to get them onto medications immediately, with no delay. Behavior modification came later.

Moreover, my friends all took steroids and started working out obsessively as a way to forestall "wasting." As a result, they became gorgeous bodybuilders who attracted even more sex partners, and this (funny as it sounds) became a problem rather than a solution, so the docs took away their steroids. I don't know for sure, but I think docs are now wary of prescribing steroids or human growth hormone to men who have HIV, because it fueled a sexual subculture of body obsession and possibly turned a number of HIV+ men into even more perfect transmission machines!

In your case, you know exactly where you got the virus, you know exactly when you got it, and you probably don't have the complicating factors that would weaken your natural immune system. The doctors may not give you any medication for a long time, just observing you. I'll bet they won't give you steroids at all now.

It's advanced so much since the 90s, and when they do get you on meds, it will be fairly simple. You just have to follow the regimen closely and exercise a lot.

I hope this helps -- really, send an SOS to Dr. H right away and get in to see a professional.

Avatar universal
One last thing, before I forget: I work out every day at a gym with a number of HIV+ members. Generally they've been infected more than 5 years, some as long as 15 years. You wouldn't believe what good shape they're in. They bench press more than I do, they outrun me when we race outside, and they outlast me in boxing class. I went hiking with one of these guys in a state park and I had to stop and catch my breath while he was still climbing.

Living with HIV, for a lot of people, means living with heightened appreciation for what everyone else takes for granted. There's a beauty to their strength and dignity I can't describe. So hang in there.

Avatar universal
Mackia - did you say you ended up testing positive after the one episode of unprotected sex?

If so, I am so sorry man.  I truley hope there is a cure for this soon.  Take care of yourself.
Avatar universal
I appreciate your sympathy.

Yes, that is right. Only one act of unprotected vaginal sex with a woman I had just met (one night stand)--As I said before, what really devastates me is that I stopped by the store and bought comdoms, but that box remained closed and left in the hotel room.

What is even more crazy. Listen to this. I have a crackhead female friend who I have known for 10 years and have engaged in sex with her and I demand the use of a condom as we have had sex maybe 5 times. But on this fateful night, I use poor judgement and have unprotected sex with someone I didn't know at all.
Avatar universal
As a first-year college student and a 1st-timer in sex, the message that I take out of this is that I must use condom no matter what, no matter how nice she looks, no matter how much she swears to me that she cannot be infected.

What is all this mumbo-jumbo that I keep hearing about the HIV virus being able to pass-through latex?  Where is this coming from?  Is that is the case, then aren't we all at risk?
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