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Girlfriend is withdrawing after testing positive. Is this normal?

Oct 15, 2006


First off, let me say how comforting your website has been since my girlfriend and I found out she is HIV+. The best thing I have done for myself it to get educated as much as possible about HIV. I went from hysteria to relative calm the more I read here on your site. Thanks for your efforts.

I met this wonderful woman on the internet about 5 months ago. She was just looking for someone to chat with and not necessarily looking to fall in love. She was brutally beaten by her last boyfriend, and a year after leaving him, was raped at an after-hours party after leaving a club with friends. Along with the trauma of the incident, she was also dealing with the fact that she could be HIV+ so she would not entertain the idea of meeting me until she got her test results at the 6 month mark. She had alot of anxiety about possibly being HIV+ and despite my repeated efforts to get her to change her mind, absolutely didn't feel comfy starting a new relationship with someone until she had her test. Well, we ended up falling deeply in love with each other and have worked up a nice little relationship together, even tho it's only telephone and internet chat/emails. I have told her repeatedly that even if she is HIV+, I still want a relationship with her. We fully expected her to test negative because of the low odds of her contracting the virus and even had our first date all planned out. She was tested and got her results on Thursday and found out she is indeed HIV+. She's still in shock as it's only been 5 days since finding out. She thinks her life is over and she wants to just give up and wait to die.

I'm no mental health expert but I imagine this is a very common reaction to finding out you are HIV+. Is this true?

She's also telling me to go away and move on and that she can't have a relationship with me now. I'm fully committed to her whether or not she's HIV+ so I'm not going anywhere. The impact on our potential sex life together will obviously be significant because of her being + but it's not enough to make me want to run from this girl. I would give up sex completely for her without a doubt.

Is this a normal reaction as well? I mean to push your lover away? Should I just give her some time and not force my way in to helping her deal with this?

My thoughts are that she'll eventually come around and realize that her life is not over and she'll want to be with me. I haven't spoken to her but one time since she found out, which is when she told me the news. I ended up raising my voice at her for wanting to push me away and she hung up on me. Can't really blame her cuz she doesn't need me putting stress on her. I regret raising my voice to her but at the time my emotions were completely out of whack after hearing such shocking and devastating news, and on top of that her telling me she's dumping me when all I want is to be there for her.

What is the best thing I can do to help her right now? She knows me very well so the anxiety of meeting someone in person that she met on the web is non-existant. The only thing keeping her away now is her HIV. I have purchased a nice book about living with HIV for her and another autobiography book from a woman living with HIV in the hopes she to can get educated about HIV and perhaps find inspiration to want to live her life as normally as possible.

Thanks again for all your work you do on this site. It has truly been a blessing for me to have this resource. After finding out, I was a wreck, but the information on your wonderful website allowed me to become more educated about HIV and Mixed status couples and that gave me ALOT of comfort.

With great gratitude, Eric

P.S. I have set up an email address specifically for correspondence with others who are affected by HIV or have a partner who is who can give me inspiration/advice on my situation. Please do not delete it from this post, it's one I created specifically for this.

Response from Dr. Horwath

She is understandably upset right now. She needs some time to cope with the news and decide how she will proceed. I think the best thing to do is give her some time. When she is more ready to talk, perhaps you need to emphasize your desire to be her friend initially, and de-emphasize any romantic involvement. What she really needs is a friend with whom she can be open about her fears and other feelings (shame, guilt, etc.). The notion of a romantic relationship is too much right now. First, she needs to understand and cope with the effects on her personally. Maybe later she will be better able to start coping with its effects on her relationships with other, including any thoughts of romantic or sexual involvement.

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