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FEELING CONTAMINATED
Feb 3, 2003

i,m 42yr old handsome man and felt fairly good about myself until i was diagnosed with hiv in sept 2002 that left me devastated slowly day by day i have accepted it but for some reason i have feelings of shame and feeling contaminated and also feeling that as for my possibilties of finnally meeting mr.right or life partner is now slim to known and also for some reason feel very unattractive and mostly stay close to home now i try to go on but some days i feel like socially my life is over due to hiv.and not wanting to infect others any advice would be appreciated..thanks !!

Response from Mr. Shernoff

The way you describe feeling is unfortunately all to common for many people living with HIV and AIDS. Even today there is a stigma attached to being diagnosed as HIV positive that contributes to some people feeling as you say contaminated.

You also sound very hopeless, helpless, powerless and despairing about the prospects for you to have the kind of future you would like because of being infected. This combination sounds like symptoms of a serious depression that will not go away by itself.

I urge you to make an appointemnt with a mental health professional who is skilled in working with people with HIV and AIDS. Talking to a professional is one important step you can take to work your way out of these feelings which sound like they are paralyzing you. Be prepared that if you do begin counseling, that he or she may suggest you begin taking anti depressant medications. This is the standard treatment of choice for depression these days.

Now about your prospects for meeting another man... there is absolutley no reason to assume that simply because you are infected you will not become part of a loving couple. I myself have been HIV positve for over 27 years and since diagnois have had two different major love affairs, both with other HIV positive men. I am currently with one of those two men in what seems to be a life long partnership. (We have already been together for over 3 years.) But unless you get your depression treated you will never feel up to putting yourself out there and dating.

In addition to seeking out a mental helath professional I also urge you to locate a good AIDS support gorup and make a commitment to join and attend it regularly. In a group you will meet and interact with other people living with HIV who will be able to identify with what you are feleing and offer their own suggestions as well as faith and hope for a more optimisitc future.

Please take these actions immediately. If you do not you will only grow to feel even worse.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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