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my boyfriend acts like he doesn't have HIV
May 11, 2004

The man I've been dating for three years (via the Internet) found out that he was HIV+ a year ago. We've only spoken about it twice - once last year when he told me he had "a sickness", and a few days ago when he finally told me that he is HIV+. We still want to have a healthy relationship, and based on the things I've read here about HIV + and - partners, I think it can work. However, he told me that he doesn't want to take medication because of the side effects. But I've read that with medication, HIV+ people have been able to survive for a much longer time than without medication. I don't want to come off as selfish, but I do want to live with him and love him as long as I can. How can I make him understand that taking the medication would be worth the side effects later on down the road? He's actually had HIV for over five years now, and within the year he's known about it I'm the only person he's told - even his family doesn't know. He's not depressed and just acts like he doesn't have HIV. We never talk about it, even though I want to now, since I know what "the sickness" is. I love him so much. Please, I will accept any advice I can get right now.

Thanks for reading,

A Worried Girlfriend

Response from Dr. Pierone

It is certainly possible for HIV discordant couples to have a healthy relationship. This scenario is becoming more common as people with HIV infection are living longer and the overall prevalence of infection increasing. Safer sex practices are associated with a low risk of transmission of HIV. It is not clear from your post if you are sexually active with your boyfriend, but if you are, it is important to practice safer sex.

One of the most common human reactions and defense mechanisms to fearful news is denial. Avoidance of threatening issues allows people to carry on with life as if there is nothing to worry about. In the case of HIV infection this strategy is not a good idea. At the least, measurement of viral load and CD4 count will help your boyfriend (and you) get a sense of the stage of his infection and whether, despite the potential side effects, he should be on antiretroviral treatment.

Some people are really terrified about this diagnosis (although they act as if they don't care) and will not actively seek medical care. Some people wait until they are extremely sick and the issue if forced by family and friends. As his friend and lover, you can help lead him out of his state of denial and address this serious issue with a mature and thoughtful approach. Let us know how things go and best of luck.



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