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+F shunned by panicked boyfriend
Aug 11, 1999

Dear Doctor, Thank you for the opportunity to write to you. I'm + since 12 years, on triple treatment, undetectable viral load since a year and a half and very greatful. I also have hep. C, just went for a biopsy and will be on Interferon still this week.

Beginning of August I met a very charming man. He had swept me off my feet, I was simply delighted, although anticipating and being worried about having to break the 'news' to him relatively soon. We dated for six weeks before we had sex. We had been intimate since mid-May, always had protected sex, however, this included oral sex without any protection. (While I have my period I never engage in intercourse nor oral sex.)

Beginning of July I told him that I was + (and that I had hep. C). He said that he wishes that I would have told him sooner. I explained that I thought it was reasonable to wait until you are moving towards a realtionship before you disclose this. I also explained that I had undetectable viral load and that this meant that risk was virtually nil.

He said that he needed time to resolve this and that he wished to be alone. I fully respect that. I sent him the 'prevention' and the 'transmission' info from the S.F. Aids Foundation and gave him their hotline number. I suggested that he could visit my medical doctor but he declined.

It has been four weeks that I broke the 'news' to him. I spoke a couple of times to him in the beginning and he didn't say much more than that he wanted to be alone. Now after three weeks of silence I tried to be in touch with him again this week-end. I left a message saying that I was aware that he wanted to sort things out on his own, but thought that in the meantime it would be better for both of us and the situation if we could have some kind of communication.

He keeps persistantly shunning me, did not return my call and screens his phone calls. He knew that I had to go in the hospital for the liver biopsy and knows that I am facing Interferon for a year. Under the circumstances, I am not expecting any particular support from him. I think that he has a very hard time dealing with the issue. However, I feel extremely humiliated by the fact that he is avoiding me so persistantly. I think that he could at least confirm that he needs more time to think. It looks to me that he is extremely angry and disappointed. I suspect that he might not even make any attempts to deal with it actively, such as seeking information or reading what I've sent him. I suspect that he may not be able to resolve conflict in general.

I am thinking about sending him a letter to ask whether he needs more time or whether I should move on. Am I too impatient or insensitive? After 12 years of having dealt with death and fear my perception is probably skewed in comparison to his.

I have quite a few experiences disclosing my status to potential boyfriends, but I never had such a brutal reaction from anyone. I think I never felt so humiliated in all my live.

Your opinion is much appreciated. Thank you very much.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

I am sorry to tell you, but I do believe that you behaved very badly with this man not to have told him about your health condition prior to having any kind of sex with him. Whether or not he is behaving irrationally, he is entitled to his feelings. If you indeed were moving towards a relationship it is understandable that he would feel betrayed and distrustful of you for not having shared this very important information prior to having sex with him. Your need to be self-protective was inconsiderate of his feelings, and naive not to have expected him to pull away as a result of how you chose to behave around this issue.

I would suggest that if you do decide to communicate with him, that you apologize to him for how you treated him. I hope that you also learn that in order to protect yourself in the future, it is best to have "the discussion" early on. By doing this you get alot of information about how this person will react to you, prior to opening up all the additional feelings that accompany becoming sexually active with another person. If he rejects you then, then you are only disappointed and less hurt than you are now feeling.

I am very sorry that you have been hurt and are feeling so badly now. But I do believe that the current situation is largely of your own making. Michael Shernoff, MSW



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