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Is it worth bringing this up now that I know?

Nov 15, 2000

I am in a tricky situation. My boyfriend told me last night that he got his results back three days ago, and blamed his being distant over the weekend on this fact. In our "big talk" last night, i had to hold back on some of my responses because I've known he is (+) for several weeks, without his knowing. [While putting a small surprise gift in his bag, I came across a daily pill holder (the ones labeled for each day of the week.] I know I overstepped his privacy, but I was concerned the meds were possibly for treating HIV; and just needed to confirm what I had already thought to be true. One of the pills was Sustiva, which I know is part of HIV treatment. I have been waiting for a time to bring up HIV status discussion. I tried once (before finding the pills) by disclosing my recent (-) test, and didn't get the follow up from him on his own. so, now I am faced with how to respond to his emotions and words from last night. I know he has known he is positive for longer than he says. Part of my anger is that he is saying "he feels like he is unworthy to be touched, or that he has nothing to offer, or doesn't want to be touched." and yet we have proceeded to fall in love with each other. In trying to be there for him, I am basing my response as if he is in the first stages of (+) diagnosis, when in fact, I know he has known his status for some time now and has probably worked through some of the initial feelings associated with that. I know I haven't presented a very clear question to be answered -- sorry. I guess Im just looking for advice as to whether I should ever bring up the fact that I've known his status for awhile now. I don't want him to feel like I invaded his privacy, but I think it might help him to be more honest in dealing with me. he wouldn't have to pretend to be going through the initial emotional response of diagnosis. I am glad he finally opened up and told me, but there are other relationship issues we need to work on that got overshadowed or blamed on his "getting his results the other day." I have read your responses to other questions, and they were very helpful. this one is different, I think. Thanks in advance!

Response from Mr. Shernoff

You are correct in stating that to let him know that you have already known about his HIV status you are opening a tricky can of worms. But what do you have to lose by now being honest and challenging him to finally also be honest with you? It seems that he has in fact not been honest with you and that is getting in the way of the relationship moving forward. I am concerned about his having allowed the relationship to proceed under the false presumption of his not knowing his HIV status. Especially as an HIV positive person I have very little patience for when an individual uses his or her HIV status as an excuse for not dealing with other important issues, like those that must come up in any relationship.

After all it is not like you were really snooping when you went to leave a surprise in his bag. That would have provided a perfect time for him to come clean to you since he would have known that by your putting something in his bag, you had seen his meds.

There seem to be other things at play here that are just being acted out around the HIV disclosure issue. I feel that it is crucial for each of you to be able to assess how you feel about the potential of the relationship growing for you both to be honest and face this crisis squarely. Good luck dealing with a very emotionally charged and difficult situation.

Michael Shernoff, MSW

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