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I don't understand people who think been Positive is a relief

Mar 4, 2002

Michael; Could you help me understand why some guys think been Positive is a relief and no longerr anxious about becoming infected.Do gay men think this is a right of passage.I was infected by my partner who didn't know he was infected.I never recieved a positive diagnosis i was given an aids diagnosis and within a few months a lymphoma diagnosis which i have 4 relapses and nearly 20 months of chemotherapy.These guys think this virus is nothing and don't even respect the virus enough to realize it still kills.I don't understand this mentality of once your positive you can relax.Are gay men so self hating and such low self esteem that they believe this is part of been gay to have HIV.I don't know can you help me understand this because I've seen the true face of this virus and its a killer.Or how can people like me change those illusions and make people realize that this virus can still kill and no one can predict your future.My highest VL was only 5000.Now my only hope for survival is a stem cell transplant and i tested neg 3 years almost to the day.Michael you do a great job on this site and to live with this virus for nearly 30 years and help others is to me an inspiration,thank you.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

You are asking several questions and confusing several different issues. Some men do find that receiving a diagnosis of being HIV positive is a relief from having to worry so much about whether or not they have become infected because then they know for certain that they have it. For many people uncertainty is the greatest source of anxiety. Thus even bad news is preferable to their having to cope with all of the anxieties that arise from living with uncertainty.

It is true that some uninfected men do think that becoming infected is not a big deal because of all of the treatments that are available today. The drop in the death rates from AIDS and the reduced attention that AIDS in America receives from the news media have all combined to provide some ill informed people with the erroneous belief that if one does contract HIV it is not a big deal any longer becasue all you have to do is take a few pills each day.

As each person who is living with HIV knows, taking those pills is a big deal. First of all they do not work to suppress the virus in everyone. There can be alot of terrible or just difficult to cope with side effects. Even today when more people are truly living with HIV instead of dying from AIDS, living with HIV is no picnic. But many uninfected people are under the false impression that HIV is easily controlled today.

The reasons why many gay men take the risk of becoming infected with HIV is enormously complicated. Sometimes it does have to do with self-hatred. Other times it is related to the misconceptions I describe above. Many times people take sexual risks while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Some people feel that the extra intensity of unprotected sex is worth any potential to a shorter life time. For some people in a relationship the increased closeness and intimacy of not using a condom is worth the risk of becoming infected. In short there are a wide variety of reasons why people take sexual risks, none of which are reduced to one simple explanation.

Michael Shernoff, MSW

I am scared and confused

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