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Hurting others

Aug 23, 1999

Up through March I was a very close friend with a man who has been HIV+ for about 10 years. During the past 6 years I was his major support in all areas as he dealt with HIV. Towards the end of our relationship his compliance started to slip. Our relationship ended because I could no longer allow him to treat me in certain ways - it does not look like that relationship can be repaired but I remain good friends with his mother. He has stopped taking medication, will go to the doctor and might go to the lab for bloodwork but does not return for any followup. so the next time he goes, the lab work is too old and they try to start over again. His viral load is going up but I guess it doesn't scare him enough to take action. His mom has told him many times that his actions make her sad and angry that he doesn't take care of himself. A straight approach of asking why or what has changed gives no answers. He says he'll take better care of himself but never breaks the cycle. This is a long intro for my question. Intellectually, he is a smart person and is well educated in the disease and consequences. He shuts down any conversations of depression, counselling etc. His mom accepts that she can't make him take care of himself. She however is still heartbroken in this chain of events and my involvement is not feasible. What might make someone respond in this fashion? And can you offer any suggestions as to how his Mom might be able to interact with him . It is emotionally devastating for her to watch him ignore the things that can allow him to live a full and productive life without any clue as to why.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

His mom is apparently more centered about this than you are. There is not one thing any adult can say to another to make him or her do something they do not want to do. She has handled this very painful, difficult and sad situation perfectly by telling him how his behaviors make her feel. All she can do is live with her feelings. There are numerous reasons why any person might be acting as this man is. But without speaking in person to him it is really pointless for me to try and conjecture about his motivations for not taking better care of himself. Michael Shernoff, MSW

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