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HIV AND A NONINFECTED PARTNET
Feb 2, 2001

I AM VERY MENTALLY OVER WHELMED, MY PARTNER IS POSTIVE ANDI AM NOT. ALL I CAN KEEP SEE IS HER WASTING TO NOTHING.PRESENTLY SHE IS IN BETTER HEALTH THAN I AM AND HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED FOR 9 YEARS THERE ARE NO SIGNS OF HER EVENTUAL FATE AT PRESENT BUT MY MIND TELLS ME THAT WHEN IT HAPPENS I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO HANDLE THE WHOLE EXCHANGE. I AM SCARED TO DEATH ,I HAVE BEEN WITH THIS PERSON FOR 3 YEARS AND ITS REALLY A LOT INVOLVED,PLEASE GIVE ME SOME ADVISE ON HOW TO DEAL WITH THE MENTAL THOUGHTS THAT STAY STUCK IN MY MIND.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

The biggest problem that I see is that you assume that your partner will definitely get ill. This is far from being a certainty. For instance I have a confirmed infection for over 26 years and have literally never had one day of HIV related illness. With the current treatments for HIV, and what we know about diagnosing and treating HIV related opportunistic infections, people with HIV are routinely living normal life spans. So the issue here is why are you using your partner's having a potentially life threatening illness to focus on vague possibilities?

Perhaps you are uncomfortable with how close the two of you have become and how much she means to you, and this is a way of distancing yourself from the intensity of your feelings about being in the relationship. Or perhaps you are angry with her about something not related to the illness and rather than confront her with those feelings you are obsessing on your fears. It is not uncommon for an uninfected partner to feel that he or she has to protect the infected partner, and thus is not emotionally authentic with him or her out of a misguided feeing that since their partner is infected, they can not handle emotional confrontations or difficult feelings like anger or disappointment. I obviously can not know what the psychic purpose of what you are doing is.

But my suggestion is that if you have not already done so, that you sit down and talk with your partner about what is going on for you, and then see how this affects you. Perhaps you will find it beneficial to see a couples counselor who is an expert in working with couples where one is infected to get some professional help in working through what is going on for you. Or, if you are not already in your own individual counseling, then some professional therapy might be very helpful in resolving whatever is really going on, becasue it really does sound like what you describe in your leter to me is some kind of emotional defense that you have constructed.

Best of luck in working this through.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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