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TERRIBLE GUILT
Jun 22, 2002

Dear Michael, First of all thank you for your great work and support you give to people. And thank you for opportunity to share my emotions. I have been married to a wonderful, wonderful person for 4 years and I am the only child and adore my parents. Before I got married, I had in whole 10-15 unprotected vaginal encounters with different guys over 3-4 years, mostly one night stands, including losing my virginity to an American (at that time HIV was not so wide spread in my country) who I now think was bisexual. I have been completely faithful to my husband since we met and never used drugs. Suddenly I see my health detiriorating, with some symptoms associated with HIV. I am going to test next Monday anonymously, for the first time in my life. My husband has worked very hard all his life to achieve a good position that he is in now, and I just want to kill myself when thinking what my (and his) positive diagnosis would do to him. I can't even begin thinking of my parents. I never thought of suicide in my life, but I feel I might slip when I get a positive diagnosis and do the terrible thing. I am completely alone in a foreign country, with nobody to talk to about this. I tried the help lines, but with no success, the ladies could only provide factual information, e.g. where to test. I am sorry for being so cowardly, but I just feel so overwhelmingly guilty to my loved ones for potentially destroying their lives because of stupid lust and carelessness. I hate myself and I wish I never was born, this way I could not cause grief to anybody. God help us all.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

I am really sorry to hear that you are in such a state. But you really do have to calm down. First of all there is only a possibility that you are infected. If you are do you live in aocuntry where treatments are available? If so then, there is not any reasn to panic.

Also if you are infected, why are you assuming that it is you who brought HIV into your marriage? It is at least just as possible that either your husband was infected prior to your marriage or that he became infected by having sex with another woman after you were married.

This is not a time for you to be hysterical, but to gather all the information possible to educate yourself about the disease. Then if you are infected you can begin to look at treatment options. Having HIV is no casue for shame or self-recriminations. It is a contagious disease with no moral connotations. There are probably support groups for people with HIV in your country since there are telephone hotlines. If you are infected sign up and attend a support group so you can meet other women who are learning how to live with HIV to gather support, friendship and compassion. This will help give you the strength to deal with telling both your parents and husband.

Best of luck during this terribly difficult time.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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