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unexplained hostility toward girlfriend

Jun 11, 2003

Dear Doctors, My boyfriend recently died from AIDS. I had only known him for a year and a half. In that time but before he became overtly ill and was diagnosed, I had begun to notice some strange behaviors, such as occasional paranoia. After he went into the hospital, he became paranoid towards me, thinking I had been possibly poisoning him. He then stayed very angry and resentful towards me, although toward no one else, apparently, even though I had done none of the things he imagined. His family and friends believed what he said, although they were aware that he had been having delusions and was even put on psychological meds. No one told me when he died; I found out accidentally through the obituaries. We had been so close and were planning to spend the rest of our lives together, so I cannot understand why he turned on me in the last two months of his life. I am heartbroken over this, and of course, over his death. I wonder if there was something I could have done to more successfully communicate with him, although he was unable to handle any stress and when I visited him in the hospital, he did not seem to be the same man I had known.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

First of all I am very sorry to hear about your loss. I do not know if there was anything different you could have said or done. But from what you are describing it is very likely that the man you were involved with was suffereing symptoms of HIV related neuro-psychiatric disorder, or what used to be called "AIDS Dementia." HIV often attacks the brain directly, causing an individual to have profound changes in his or her mood and perceptions of the people and world around him or her. There is a good likelihood that the changes you experienced in this man, that caused you so much pain were caused by this. I offer you this infomration in the hope that it might bring you a measure of comfort.

Michael Shernoff, MSW

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