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My neighbor has AIDS-How can I help?
Mar 31, 2001

My neighbor of 6 months just came crying in a desperate appeal for emotional help. She looks very sick,has been sleeping alot and fighting with her boyfriend. She smashed her car into his car this A.M. out of pure frustration (He has known for sometime but now he's running away) I was informed she has been HIV pos. for 8 years. I cried with her. She says she feels abnormal and worthless. She feels she's having a nervous breakdown. Now she is asking me to help get her started on the road to getting help. I desire to help but I don't know where to begin besides just being someone to hug her and cry with. How can I help?

The God-Given Neighbor

Response from Mr. Shernoff

There are several things you can do. The first is obviously just remain her caring and loving friend. Second you have to urge her to get help. I am troubled by the fact that she is coming to you to get motivation for her to get help. This is not good. She has to be enough of an adult to do the following things herself. If she has known she is positve for 8 years and has not gotten help, what is that about? I think your neighbor is using her being HIV+ to act out alot of other emotional problems.

But, in any case, here is what SHE must do. She has to locate the nearest AIDS service orgnaization and then call them to enroll as a client. She nees to regularly attend a support group for other women living with HIV.

She also does not sound mentally well balanced. Therefore I suggest that once she becomes a client at the local AIDS organization, she ask them for a referral to a good mental health professional in order to get counseling.

Alot of people who had emotional or psychological problems before becoming HIV deal with the illness in the same way that caused them difficulties in their life. You say out of frustration this woman smashed her car into her boyfriend's car. I don't care, this is simply unacceptable behavior. What did she want from her boyfriend? Neither he nor you can do things for her that she is unwilling to do for herself.

As for you, please proceed with caution. Your neighbor sounds like a tantrum throwing infant who wants everyone else to take care of her, rather than treating herself like an adult who needs to take full care of herself, and then come to other people only for support and love.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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