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Finding qualified professionals

Feb 14, 2003

In a recent reply to a question (Locating Mental Health Professionals trained in HIV, Posted: Jan 17, 2003) you were surprised that the writer had difficulty in finding referrals for qualified help. I am surprised that you were unaware of the difficulty. I am an HIV+ professional living in a city (Atlanta) with a very large HIV+ population I am being treated by one of the most respected HIV specialists in the country, and have excellent insurance and am fortunate enough to have excellent health insurane including mental health coverage. Yet I have found it nearly impossible to locate a therapist or psychiatrist with the training, experience, and desire to work with HIV infected individuals. Further, I defy you to find one agency or organization that will provide referrals to mental health practitioners in my area. My physician did provide me with a small list of referrals (the list used to be longer but most suffered "burnout from working with HIV" issues). Unfortunately not a single one was included in he list of nearly 400 providers covered by my insurance in my area.

I have been diagnosed with "severe" depression since my HIV diagnosis 18 months ago. I have tried three different anti-depressant drugs, all with disastrous results due to interaction with my HIV meds, and even with relatively vast resources available to me have been completely unsuccessful in finding any help. After a full year of looking I finally found a therapist who I was confident in...three months later the burnout hit him and he moved his practice to a distant suburb where there is a very small HIV+ population.

There is no question here, just more information which you should be aware of so you will understand that the writer's concerns were very commonplace, and worsening.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

Frankly I am surprised to learn of your difficulties in locating a good HIV mental health professional in Atlanta, but do not doubt the truthfulness of what you share. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

Michael Shernoff, MSW

Women with HIV
Ethical Principles relating to HIV/AIDS in New Jersey

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