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Am I treating him the right way?

Jan 27, 2000

I apologize if you have already answered this but I did not find it on the Q & A list. Anyway, I am an HIV negative man in a relationship with an HIV positive man. I am very much in love with him but I get very confused in how to "Just Be" with him. I tried to get his mind off HIV by talking about other topics, at least for a while. But he commented that I was uninterested in his disease and that I needed to ask him how he was from time to time. When I changed to asking he commented that I was asking the "wrong way." What is the right way to ask someone about their HIV? Are they depressed about it? etc. It seems that no matter what I try, I always do it the wrong way and he ends up getting either upset, depressed or we have a fight. Please help. How do you talk & live day to day with someone who is HIV positive. I know it's a doozy of a question but I really hope you can at least give me some pointers. Thanks in advance!!!

Response from Mr. Shernoff

The best way is to ask your partner what exactly he wants from you in terms of how to talk about his condition. It is important that you remind him that you are only trying to figure out how to relate to him as a full person, which includes the fact that he has HIV. Many of us who are infected choose not to really think about having the illness other than keeping medical appointments, taking our meds and taking very good care of our health. I have heard from many positive clients that they felt that their partner's loving questions felt to them as if they were being controlled or parented, which made them not want to talk about this.

Use the fact that you have obviously not found the right way to discuss issues about his health as an opening for a discussion about both of your needs in terms of talking about this important aspect of who he is and how it impacts on the relationship for both of you. This kind of a conversation can open up important topics about what you each need in terms of improved communication in all areas of your relationship.

Michael Shernoff, MSW

Specific Treatment Issues for HIV+ Women & Mental Health
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