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Mixed-Status Couple: overflowing love but a lot of stress
May 6, 2011

In September of 2010 I met a woman who I knew then and know to this day is the woman of my dreams. Only about two weeks into the relationship she found out she was HIV positive. Since then, the relationship has been like a fairy tale despite the diagnosis. However, the ONLY thing we bicker, disagree, and recently have all out fought, yelled and cried about is the fact that I am still quite hesitant when it comes to sexual intercourse with her.

Not only have I researched the many statistics regarding the low risk of transmission between a positive female and negative male with protected sex, as well as the positive partner on medication (her viral load is undetectable & counts are way up), she continually, despite her best efforts, throws statistics at me in attempts to make me feel more comfortable and have intercourse with her.

My answer to her question of whether I ever think I can have sex with her has been honest and consistent throughout all this, which is that personally, I had to say probably not, but that anything is possible and I will do all I can to change that and be comfortable with it because I love her. This included me attending groups, going to her doctor's office with her, speaking with counselors, and coming up with the idea of going to couples counseling, etc. Most of which I have done.

Recently, I told her I think I can be intimate with her but realize I need time to get over my fears so we can reach our common goal of being intimate and happy. Thereafter she began asking "when?" and "why not now?". These time tables are of immense pressure for me, despite my willingness to work on my worries with regard to transmission.

Tonight we decided to go our separate ways but this has happened before. The consensus is that couples counseling will not change my fears, even if irrational, and won't change her strong position that she wants to be intimate with me NOW. I do want to be intimate with her, I just can't get past my fears as quickly as she'd like ... even if these fears are irrational, of which she continually emphasizes to me.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Response from Dr. Fawcett

This can be an immensely complicated issue for couples, but many have successfully worked their way through the various physical and emotional concerns. Loving each other, along with good communication skills and the willingness of both of you to find solutions, are essential to working this out. I'm sorry you decided go separate ways and hope you look at that as a temporary measure while you try to find resolution. I encourage you both to seek the guidance of professionals familiar with serodiscordant couples (it sounds like you have a good start) and look for support groups with others in similar situations. There are also good resources available on line (for example, this list of resources from TheBody or the archived Mixed-Status-HIV-Couples forum from TheBody). Care for each other, patience, and some creativity will all be part of your solution. Good luck.

-David



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