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May 15, 2000

Dear Dr Shernoff's,

To start I lost my best friend to Aid's, she was a beautiful gal who I looked up to and was not there at her death because of a distance between us because of a silly fight. Then my brother is sick with HIV too, I know it but he won't admit it to me, or anyone else in our family. I think he is too kind to hurt my family and too ashamed. I want to reach out to him but I respect his wishes. It's killing me. No really I think all this stress and a lousy marital relationship sent me into a FTW attitude and I had a dangerous (very) encounter and since then suffer with several symptoms of early HIV. I can't get tested(scared) and I don't have anyone to talk to about this. I told my husband all about my fears and either he is too scared it will wreck us forever or he really just can't be bothered. Meanwhile I slip into insanity whenever I am alone or at the thought of leaving my 2 girls in this crazy world without the comfort of "Mommy". My gun would be a terrible way out and making my girls live their youth with the burden of my impending death sounds terrible too. I toggle between religious belief why I got this( I am destined to die for my lack of love to my kids and the world,how could any decent Mom give up the future for a shitty lay at that) and the scientific belief (it's a dreadful disease and I was in the wrong place at the wrong time for no reason at all). Is this a mental health question? I believe many woman are in some struggle because they are the stronghold in there family and lose it sometimes. I need to know was this self punishment or just a stupid act. I need to know that I didn't give up all that I love.

The question is is getting hiv deliberately..could that have been a death wish for me?

Response from Mr. Shernoff

I don't know what you mean by a "FTW" attitude. Obviously having a high risk sexual encounter was a self destructive act. You sound very depressed and trapped as well as emotionally isolated and alone. I urge you for your own sake as well as that of your children to immediately try to find a mental health professional and begin to work with him or her to help you feel better and figure things out about how to set your life back on course. YOu can begin by asking your pastor if he or she knows of a Christian counselor who you can talk to. If you live in a big city there are local AIDS service organizations that have professional staff trained to work with women in situations just like yours. They also have support groups for women dealing with the same issues. Please make this phone call immediately.

Michael Shernoff, MSW

Dear Michael
living alone

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