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Window period


I am a medical student currenly studying overseas. Despite knowing WELL the medical risks of what i was doing, I became subjected to the consequences of a very poor judgement call. Stupididy, pure stupidity.It all began during my summer break. I had been staying up late at night almost every night. As the busy city streets grew alive, flooding with people who seeked nightly entertainment, so did the red light districts, as horny, single, attached, even married men seek out prostitutes to tame their sexual needs. I was one, on that night who took the walk of shame, looking for a new exploit, one that could satisfy my growing needs. Life in university wasnt going as easy as i expected, and i kept telling myself "take a break!".Together with equally vulnerable and ill-informed friends, i arrived at my destination and did what i had come to do. It was an exciting experience; the hot, sweaty, blurry and tons of fun. Midway through the ride, something felt strange, almost a sense of tightness,. I withdrew, only to find to my shock that my condom had broken, and for how long? I had no idea. In the mood i was in, it seemed like a small problem. I would go on to forget about it.I finished up, went home, and life went back to normal in a matter minutes. .... or so i thought.

10 days later, I awoke in the morning, feeling like my body was on fire. I had gotten out of bed at around 10 am and proceeded to get a drink of water. I had pain in my throat on swallowing the water. So i hopped over to the bathroom and looked in my mouth in the mirror. To my horror, it was reddened, bumpy, and inflamed. My tongue was coated with white gunk, and what's more there were white patchy bumps on the back of my throat. My initial assumption was that this was simply a sore throat infection gone bad. Oh no, but things didnt stop there. When i stepped out of the shower, i was again taken by surprise to find that my upper body had a hint of reddened spots all over. This was where things started to get out of control. I had gone to see my doctor the next day, and he prescribed me the relevent antibiotics. Then i waited for my infection to go away. 1 day, 3 days, 5 days, nothing.... 1 week,, 10 days... and then finally 2 weeks later i was back to normal. The entire time i felt miserable , sick, tired and worn out. Somewhere along those lines, i started to map out in my mind, a timeline. And it fit perfectly. My symptoms and signs were consistent with what is known as "HIV Seroconversion Illness".

I grew insane, my limbs couldnt move, I lay in bed all day. I was overwhelmed with grief and shock. Typing in things on internet search engines like "HIV Symptoms" or "HIV and Rash" or "HIV and Sore throat". Numerous websites described things so accurately i thought it was unmistakable. As i expected, my clinical scenario fit together so well like a missing piece in a jigsaw puzzle. This is it... i told myself... I have done it. I have HIV.

It wasnt long before people started noticing things about my behaviour. I was quiet.. my mind distracted heavily with thoughts. Several times i almost got into a car accident had it not been for a friend who alerted my to my careless driving. My life was spiralling, spiralling hard out of control. I went deeply into depression. Crying randomly throughout different times of the day. Sleeping for many hours after crying and exhausting myself. Then waking up to a dark, gloomy world that had sucked all the happiness out of me. I was miserable. I needed help. I needed someone to tell me that i was free. that nothing happened. My face was expressionless., but inside my head i was screaming desperately for help. I had to get tested. ... Several times, i would call the helpline number i found on the internet, and then hang up, too ashamed to go through even a conversation. Soon enough, i went to the clinic...

I saw my doctor. It was a big relief to be sitting in his office. My hands were trembling. Too ashamed to tell him of my encounter, I lied that i needed HIV/HepC testing as part of a mandatory requirement for being a medical student. He proceeded to draw my blood and told me to come back in 3 days. Back home, i noticed another symptom. I was itching all over my body.. And my throat had a lump in it. Again, stupidly i hopped on the internet and searched, concurrently searching my textbooks for possible explanaitons for this. Again, somewhere, HIV came into the picture. And to make things worse., I found out that i was in the "window period" for testing which meant that my tests had a good chance of being falsely negative. This drove me INSANE.

I could NOT sleep. I began walking around my house.. Back, and forth.. back and forth. And i kept doing it for hours on end. 3 days later i got my results. They were negative BUT TOO SOON.. simply, i wasnt satisfied. My doctor had performed the ELISA antibody test which is known to be 100% accurate only after 3 months. I was barely at a few weeks after my encounter. This WASNT ENOUGH... I NEEDED A BETTER ANSWER.

The time came soon after for me to go back to university. I was at the 12 week mark. 3 months had finally been over.. I HAD TO GET RETESTED.. i told my self. On a monday morning, i did so again. Got my blood drawn, and this time i had been tested with both ELISA and the p24 ANTIGEN test which was supposed to be accurate as early as 6 weeks. The wait time was getting longer and i had to return in 7 days to collect. Those 7 days were ABSOLUTE HELL. WHY ME?! i kept asking.. WHY HAD I DONE SOMETHING SO STUPID AND MEANINGLESS AND SHAMEFUL.?!... I was disgusted, shocked, grieving, trembling with fear, crying desperately, depressed, and my life was at a standstill.. I continued to become a victim of the internet scaring myself to never before scared levels.

The day finally came. A monday morning. I put on my shoes and walked out.. Telling myself this was probably going to be the MOST SIGNIFICANT DAY OF MY LIFE... The anticipation was indescribable.. horrifying, and lonely. My name was called at the clinic. My doctor looked at me.. and read the verdict...


"We've done all the testing, powerful testing and we've found nothing.. you are negative,".. My heart started racing, Even at this point, it was all still blurry and fuzzy. Wait a minute., im negative,.. so all this was.. just.. what??? I WAS NEGATIVE!... My life had taken a new turn. I couldnt believe my results. The feeling was empowering, comforting, and most of all, a massive load off my chest.

These days that i've described above were undoubtedly the worst i had experienced in my life. At one point, i had even accepted that i had HIV and started looking at drugs and prices, and how much they would cost. I also started looking for cures and treatments that i could undertake.My heart goes out to everyone who has been living with HIV. As a future doctor, this experience has made me change my desired career path to infectious disease specialising in HIV. The treatments have been amazing at prolonging lifespan and hopefully will continue to do so in future,. with the new Abzyme research being conducted in texas, i hope with all my heart that there will be a HIV vaccine and cure available in 10-15 years time.

The biggest take home lesson i have gained from this experience was the VALUE OF LIFE... I couldve lost it all to a simple mistake. I was a medical student.. a F#@$@$ MEDICAL STUDENT and i didnt know better. Life, which is priceless, of infinite value, should be surrounded by love and affection, success, and happiness. Not with depression, anxiety, horrifying thoughts and disease. If you are living in fear, afraid of getting your test results, or ashamed to even get a test, just remember the simple rules.

1) NEVER LOOK AT ANYTHING on internet medical sites that claim to give you "advice" or "diagnostic information" on ANYTHING>! these sites are almost always misleading and will cause you to feel more miserable.. You may have done something you are GUILTY about.. OF COURSE you 're going to assume you have the worst scenario.

2) Get up off your bum, and go see the doctor NOW... i guarantee you once you get your blood drawn, you will feel some source of comfort, and stop feeling alone and depressed. This is critical.. from personal experience, getting negative test results almost always makes your entire depressive episode go away within 1 minute. You will be back on your feet in no time.. testing is the only cure.


HAVE SAFE SEX.. AVOID CASUAL SEX.. DO NOT SHARE NEEDLES, and before you do anything, first think about the people you REALLY LOVE, and how badly and horrible you would hurt and scar them.


Sent via Email October 22, 2009 from Singapore.

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