HIV Prevention and Testing > Am I Infected?

Scared for me and my girlfriend. Symptoms, risk?

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Toei:
Hi everyone.

I am 23 years old, heterosexual male, from Norway. This is my first post on this forum, after lurking here for some time. As is the case of most posters here, i am struck with fear of begin infected with hiv. Why? Because of symptoms:/

I do believe my fears are irrational as my "risks" should be quite neglectable, so here goes:

"Risk 1":

I have had protected sex with 8 different girls, on all occasions one night stands, except with one girl that i might have had sex with 10-20 times. All these girls were (to my knowledge) non-drug users and none of them were immigrants. All were aged 17-24. I cannot explicitly remember any condom breakage with these girls, however i remember a slight fear of making one of them pregnant(which might have been due to a condom breakage that I cannot remember now, and that I at the time didn't consider much of a risk). Still, there are only about 100 hiv pos that fits to those criteria in the entire country, the majority of which are located in the capital where I don't live. Additionally, although i am having unprotected risk with my current girlfriend, which indeed _should_ be the largest risk(although i know her sexual history), I don't consider this a risk for myself at all. How irrational. Anyways, this is why I am the most scared... Of putting her to a risk of hiv:(

"Risk2":

About 4 years ago, i stepped on something sharp while visiting the capital. I was at the time a bit drunk and walking in a street where there are some drug addicts. Once again, only about 0.4% of the injecting drug users are hiv pos, however this is my largest fear. Yeye, I know that _if_ the stats from hiv infections in occuptaional setting form needlesticks are used, the risk only amounts to about 1/100 000. That is, if it was indeed a needle i stepped on, and disregarding posts on this forum that states hiv infection cannot occur through needlesticks outside healtcare settings. As a sidenote, I don't understand why this cannot be. If  e.g. the needle was discarded just previous to the accident, shouldn't this amount to the same as an occupational injury. Also,  the research in my opinion is based on too few subjects to be entirely valid regarding non-occuptational needle stick injuries. Can someone explain this further perhaps? What about hep c?

"Risk3":

Fingering a girl with a somewhat deep cut (from a breadknife some hours earlier). The cut didn't bleed when fingering, and I have found thorough explanations as to why this isn't a risk on these forums. Anways , it still scares me a bit.

On to my symptoms:

Last summer i got some wierd rash in my neck below my hairline with initially few bumps on my left side and then the following week(s) extending somewhat with occasional bumps on the right occipital region as well.  The total amount of these bumps were 20-30. A hard lymph node that waxed and wained throughout the day was discovered in the same region.

When this rash hadn't resolved the next two months i presented them to my doctor, that said they were some kind of viral infection, perhaps molluscum, and that it was nothing to worry about. He also said that the lymph node might be due to the skin infection.

I researched molluscum on the internet, and found it stated several places that it could be found in people with hiv, and that molluscum in the face/neck region especially could indicate hiv infection. Since my doctor hadn't mentioned it, and since i was practising martial arts with alot of skin contact, i didn't really think much of it after the initial scare. This would have been apprx 3 years after the first and 1 year after the llast possible "risk".

However, recently i discovered that the lymph node still persists. It might have wained some, but it is certainly still there, probably 1 cm and a bit hard. I might have a similar, although  smaller lymph node on the other side as well. This cares me, although i have had painful muscles in my neck/shoulder region for a long time.  Can painful muscles cause lymph node enlargement?

Additionally, my right tonsil have been wierd/irritated for some time, with a swollen lymph node below the jaw as well. After reading of persistent lymph nodes as a symptom of hiv, i have checked further. Two shotty nodes(?) are on each side of my neck, and i have bumps in the inguinal region, although I cannot say for certain that these are abnormally enlarged lymph nodes. A doctor described my neck as having "several palpable nodes" when i went to him with my throat issues and recieved a referral to ent(which didn't find anything except that my nose was a bit irritated).

Regarding ARS symptoms, I cannot remember being sick for more than two days the last 6 or so years.

My own conclusion:

The persisting lymph node, with potential others and thinking back to the molluscum episode have led me to this scare. I know my risks are minute, but rational thinking doesn't seem to help much. Wow, this was a long post.

I am probably a hypocondriac.

Anyways, I am going to call the hospital requesting a test when they open the phone service shortly. I hope some of you might give me some encouraging words, and wish me luck. Thank you:)


Ann:
Toei,

Symptoms, or even the lack of symptoms, means nothing when it comes to hiv infection. Only a test will reliably reveal your hiv status.

The only thing you list above that is a risk is the unprotected intercourse you're having with your girlfriend. You may think you know her sexual history, but you never know. You should not be having unprotected intercourse with anyone unless you have tested together with them and know their hiv status for certain.

You need to be using condoms for anal or vaginal intercourse, every time, no exceptions until such time as you are in a securely monogamous relationship where you have both tested for ALL STIs together. To agree to have unprotected intercourse is to consent to the possibility of being infected with a sexually transmitted infection. Sex with a condom lasts only a matter of minutes, but hiv is forever.

Have a look through the condom and lube links in my signature line so you can use condoms with confidence.

Anyone who is sexually active should be having a full sexual health care check-up, including but not limited to hiv testing, at least once a year and more often if unprotected intercourse occurs.

If you aren't already having regular, routine check-ups, now is the time to start. As long as you make sure condoms are being used for intercourse, you can fully expect your routine hiv tests to return with negative results. Don't forget to always get checked for all the other sexually transmitted infections as well, because they are MUCH easier to transmit than hiv.

You and your girlfriend need to start using condoms and you both need to test together three months after your last unprotected encounter.

Ann

Toei:
Thank you for your answer. I have now got an appointment for testing tomorrow. Could someone please elaborate as to why the needle isn't a risk? Does f.ex the potential blood on the tip disappear when penetrating the sole of the shoe?

Ann:
Toei,

Hiv is a fragile, difficult to transmit virus. Small changes in moisture content, temperature and pH levels will all quickly damage the virus and a damaged hiv virus cannot infect.

Sharing needles is a risk when an hiv positive person uses the needle and immediately passes it on to an hiv negative person for use. When a drug user injects drugs, they insert the needle into a vein, and pull back on the plunger to bring blood into the barrel of the syringe, so they know they definitely have a vein. When they see the blood, they can then inject the contents of the syringe.

Small amounts of blood will remain INSIDE the needle and barrel of the syringe. The next person to use the needle will inject this left-over blood DIRECTLY into their blood stream.

In the case of stepping on a discarded needle, you will only be exposed to blood that may be left on the outside of the needle. Blood on the outside of a needle left lying around would be far too damaged by exposure to the environment to be able to infect. Also, this blood would only be exposed to the outer layers of skin. As you have read with the fingering with a cut situations, hiv cannot infect this way.

Needle-sticks with discarded needles out on the street as a transmission route is nothing more than an urban myth. Not one person has ever been infected with hiv in this manner.

It's good to hear that you will test, as any sexually active person should do this as a matter of routine. Make sure your girlfriend tests as well, and use condoms in the meantime.

By the way, I expect you to test negative, but hiv is nothing to guess about. Test - both of you - and be certain.

Ann

Toei:
Hi again. I got tested yesterday, and should receive the results in apprx a week. This truly is a scary experience, however my nerves are calmed somewhat after reading your post about needles. Having spoken to my girlfriend, I know that her risks are even less than mine. Thus, the only possible risk factor would be if the condom was broken sometime that i cannot remember.

 I have experienced breakage with my girlfriend before she started on the pill, so i know what it looks like. I might, however, not remember the breakage explicitly if such an episode didn't scare me regarding stds/hiv at that time. Rather, im scared because i do remember checking my condom often for breakage in the more recent sexual experiences, and for being "afraid" of pregnancy due to precum with one or two girls. I suppose, i shouldn't have been afraid of such if the condoms remained intact. But then again, these were my two first sexual experiences, something that might have some influence. Adding the time issue together with me not being sober doesn't exactly help my memory:(  Anyways, the amount of hiv infected girls with the cultural background/age of those i had sexy with, really is close to zero, so my risk should be low even if such a breakage should have happened. The uncertainty is nagging me though.

Oh and to the needle issue, I am starting to understand now - at least why such infection is highly unlikely. But why would only this blood be exposed to the outer layers of the skin, as my (potential) needle could have entered quite deep?. In other words, if the needle was discarded just minutes before my accident, shouldn't this be similar an accident in a hospital setting?

Thank you once again for your answers. I hope not to meet you guys in the "newly infected" forum a week from now.

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