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Hiv positive partner depression
Jul 23, 2001

My fiancee was misdiagnosed with colitis for about 2 years. During that time we were having unprotected sex on average once per month due to the colitis. About 18 months ago she was correctly diagnosed as HIV+. I've been getting tested about 4 times since then and 3 times before we were together. Each time I've been negative. My problem is this, I love this woman with all my heart, But she often times gets depressed and shuts me out. In the best of times she has always had trouble sharing her emotions. But even though I try understand her condition I'm beginning to take the rejection as personal. I constantly reassure her how much she is loved and cared for by all who love her. But I'm starting to feel very alone myself. How can I help her and myself? Is there a program in New York where we or I could go for counseling.(She goes to a therapist and is on anti-depressants). I Love her dearly and we plan to get married soon. But it's getting rough. Especially since she has been getting outbreaks of Herpes...Please help us!!!!

Response from Dr. Remien

The situation you find yourself in is challenging, but not unusual. It is also not unique to "mixed" status couples or even to HIV specifically. When one member of a couple is depressed, whatever the reason, it is often a significant burden on the other member of the couple, particularly when the depressed person is withholding in their communication to their partner. It is typical for the partner who is "shut out" to feel incredibly frustrated and helpless.

Expressing support, as you are doing, is helpful, but may only go so far. It is important that you realize that you alone are not able to "fix" her depression. It is important that she continue with her therapy. It may also be helpful for you to seek some individual counseling to help you deal with your feelings and the helplessness you must be experiencing. Couples counseling can also be a tremendous help. It is important for your fiancee to realize the impact her depression has on you and for the two of you to find strategies to cope with your situation.

If finding or paying for couples counseling in a private practice setting is not feasible for you I recommend contacting the NY State Psychological Association Task Force on AIDS (212-459-4167). This is run by an experienced group of mental health professionals offering low cost psychological services in private practice settings. You can contact them for either individual or couples therapy. Similar alternatives include any of the Training Institutes in or around New York City. You can also contact any of the local community based organizations that offer HIV-related support services. Start with Body Positive (212-566-7333 or 800-566-6599) since they have a history of providing counseling to couples of mixed HIV status. Good luck and please seek the help and support that you need.


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