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Ben Leander Willgruber, MSc.
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Being terrified of HIV

I am sick right now. Everything was fine two days ago except for some minor headaches but I was laying horizontally in bed all of yesterday – and not for the good reasons. When I’m sick, I go into a spiral of desperation, trying to figure out if I might be sick because I’ve infected myself with HIV. I have a cough? That could be HIV! Fever? I must be dying!

When it comes to HIV, I lose all sense of reality.
And that’s nothing unique. From my experience, a lot of gay men are just as terrified about HIV as I am. Even when we’re extremely cautious. Unfortunately, HIV and the gay community are somewhat connected to each other. That sucks, but there’s no use sugarcoating it. Not-so-fun fact on the side, when HIV first came up, it was even called Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID).

Photo by Cameron Barnes

We may be the demographic most enlightened about STDs.
All the information we have about HIV/AIDS is important. We know so much about it and we’re probably most afraid of it too. It sucks. Information is necessary but it’s also triggered some OCD symptoms for me and other gay guys I’ve talked about it. It’s a passive fear that haunts me. I may tell myself that everything is fine and that there was literally no risk of transmission at all. I know I was safe and all that. Yet here I am, with a cold, thinking about what I’ve done sexually for the last couple of weeks. Did something unexpected happen? Was there the slightest risk of transmission? Objectively I know, there wasn’t.

How could you not be terrified?


Embarrassing conversations with my doctor.

It’s hard to speak to a doctor about STDs and the fear thereof. It’s uncomfortable telling him/her about playdates, but he/she won’t care. I think they’re glad when you’re honest and give them all the information because it makes their job easier too. Since I’m a nervous chicken when it comes to topics like this, I see my doctor quite regularly. He is cute though, so it’s only half bad. I ask any and all questions I have and I had to find a doctor who’s willing to take his time and actually listen to me. The last time I went to my doctor, who has helped me a great deal with my anxieties, I jokingly added that if I have to come in again he’ll have to invite me to dinner. That’s how comfortable I wish I was with all my doctors.

Photo by Cig Harvey

I know that having HIV is not a death sentence. I know that you can still live a healthy, normal life with it. HIV+ people reading this will probably think I am an ignorant ass and don’t know about PrEP or undetectable viral loads, but I do. It just hasn’t changed how I feel. One day, when a cure is developed, I hope I can leave my fear behind.

I know I’ve been safe and I know I’ve always been cautious. I worry, still. And get tested regularly. Just to be sure.

Am I crazy? Or do you have similar irrational fears?

Ben

Comments

  • 15. June 2018
    reply

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  • 7. May 2018
    reply

    It’s actually refreshing to see that people still “worry”. I wasn’t sure. STDs seem to be so prevalent nowadays that we almost shrug it off as something normal. And the fact that one can live with, and maintain HIV is lulling some people’s worries.

      • 8. May 2018
        reply

        It totally did. But we are human. There will always be people thinking/ feeling one extreme and other people who will think/ feel the exact opposite.

  • 4. May 2018
    reply

    Funny, I just returned from my state-wide summit conference on HIV/AIDS yesterday. You are not alone in your concerns and to be honest, more people actually SHOULD be worried. However, if you practice safer sex consistently and are on PrEP, there is probably no need to worry. Good post! Naked hugs!

      • 7. May 2018
        reply

        And I appreciate your comments and perspective here. Naked hugs!

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