Readers' Submissions

I Might Have HIV

I should have known to look at her. The skinny frame, the damaged skin. She didn’t always look like this.

I’ve known my Thai girlfriend for 16 months; I spent 6 months living in Thailand in 2007 and on December 28 2007 returned to see her.

We don’t use condoms.

Yesterday we went to hospital, she had an infection. The doctor thought she looked like she had HIV. She was crying, I don’t know what I was thinking. I went and got tested straight away. 1 hour later, the results; Non reactive (negative). Thank god.

30 minutes later she got her results. I was telling her of course she would be ok, if I was ok then she must be too. But she tested positive. I couldn’t believe it. I tested negative but there is an incubation period for HIV- anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months. I’ve been researching the internet, the extract below from the San Francisco aids foundation website seems to explain my situation.

Window Period The "window period" is the time it takes for a person who has been infected with HIV to react to the virus by creating HIV antibodies. This is called seroconversion.

During the window period, people infected with HIV have no antibodies in their blood that can be detected by an HIV test, even though the person may already have high levels of HIV in their blood, sexual fluids, or breast milk.

Here is what the CDC says about the window period:

"Antibodies generally appear within three months after infection with HIV, but may take up to six months in some persons."

This CDC definition of a three to six month window period has been commonly used for a number of years.

What does this mean for you?

The three month window period is normal for most of the population. Many people will have detectable antibodies in three or four weeks. Very, very rarely (i.e., only a few cases ever), a person could take six months to produce antibodies.

You may be anxious to be tested soon after an encounter which you perceive to be risky (for a discussion of what behaviors put you at risk for HIV and which ones do not, see the section on How HIV Is Spread). You want to know: can I be antibody tested without waiting three months? How accurate is the test after, say, six weeks?

Unfortunately, we simply don't know.

Think about this: if you got a negative test at six weeks, would you believe it? Would it make you less anxious? If so, then go for it. But to be certain, you will need to be tested again at three months. Some test centers may recommend testing again at six months, just to be extra sure.

Although HIV may not be detected by a test during the window period, HIV can be transmitted during that time. In fact, individuals are often most infectious during this time (shortly after they have been exposed to HIV).

She told me she gave oral sex to a man in Bangkok when I was working in Farangland. From my calculations she must have got HIV in the period between when I left Thailand after 6 months together and when I returned on 28th December. If she had it before then, surely I would have contracted it by now. My emotions? Pity for her, she only found out yesterday. Anger, to what degree was she sleeping around (the chances of getting HIV from oral sex are very very very small)

Anyway – right now this is not about how she got it. This is about my life. I have been felling unwell for the last week. I came down with a bout of food poisoning about a week about but I still feel unwell. Tired, no appetite. Please don’t let me have this disease. I just want to leave Thailand now. I want this to be a bad dream. I’m only 26. Have I ruined my life? Please no. I feel like I am in an airplane; the plane is going down. I’m asking God…please if you get me through this I’ll be a better person.

I think I need to talk to someone. I don’t know how I’ll be able to concentrate on work. How can I think of work. Feel like just want to curl up.

I won’t know for another 3 – 6 months if I have it. What are the chances I have it.

I first had unprotected sex with my girlfriend in May 2007. We stayed together until September 2007, upon which I went to work in Farangland for 3 months. On 28 December 2007 I returned to Thailand. In the period 28 December to 11 January we maybe had sex maybe 10 times – my girlfriend had developed an infection on her upper leg so that meant we couldn’t have that much sex.

Based on the above, I can arrive at two assumptions. 1 – My girlfriend had HIV at the beginning of our relationship, and I have just somehow not got it. 2 – Or two (more likely), she got HIV during my three month stint in Farangland, therefore potentially could be in my body now and in an incubation period at the moment – we last had sex on 11 January – I tested on 18 January. But it can take up to 6 months for the antibodies that point to HIV to show up in a blood test.

Where do I go from here? If HIV is in its incubation period is there anything I can do to stop it?

What do I do about my girlfriend; obviously this is a shock to her. Because I am still negative, my feelings of anxiety over having HIV outweigh any anger. If she has fucked around, she has been punished. Obliviously we don’t have a future together and I’ll have to consider when I can walk away.

The next few months are going to be hell. My life has been turned upside down.

Stickman's thoughts:

First of all, I am very sorry to hear of your predicament and the dreadful angst you're now experiencing. I truly hope that you receive good news when you're next tested.

I am sure readers will offer some good advice. I'd love to give you a few thoughts, but this is a little more difficult than the norm. My advice would be to go to one of the better hospitals (Bumrungrad, BNH, Bangkok Hospital or Samitiwej) and talk to someone who specialises in HIV. They would be the best people qualified to help. They might even be able to recommend people to talk to or support groups.

I really do wish you the best and hope it turns out to be a false alarm.

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