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Boyfriend refusing to get tested for HIV make me depressed.

Jun 14, 1999

My boyfriend refuses to get tested for HIV. I am HIV+ and we have been boyfriends for three years. Our sex life has steadily declined in frequency over time until it almost came to a standstill this year. Even though we have talked about his fears he is still very afraid. I have told him that knowing is better than not because at least if he is positive he can monitor his health and make choices and that if he is negative he would feel better knowing it. He says that if he tests for HIV, regardless of the results, our sex life would get worse, not better. He says that if he is positive, well, that's that and if he is indeed negative, he will be that much more obsessive about his fears of having sex with me. Not testing and not knowing are much more comfortable for him. I am not, however, comfortable with his decision or this situation. My mental health has always been delicate. I have had clinical depression on and off for most of my life. I am sad he feels this way and I feel that if I do not push him to test that I am taking advantage of his fears just to have the little sex we do have. He is not the kind of person that responds well to being pushed, however, so I am at a loss as to how to persuade him it is the right thing to do. Any advice you can offer I would appreciate.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

The only advice I can offer is that you can not and should not push him into doing anything in his life, especially a big decision like testing for HIV. If you push him into it, no matter which way the results turn out it will be your fault and he will blame you only more seriously damaging the relationship. You have to detach from his taking this action.

The real problem may have nothing to do with his fears of HIV, (though of course his feelings and fears about HIV may be related to the lack of your having sex, though I tend to doubt it.) The reason I say that he may just be using HIV as a smoke screen to hide behind, is that there is alot of sexual fun two men can have, even being very conservatively safe, if they are genuinely both interested in having a satisfying sex life. That is the big caveat. It does not sound like he is as interested in having sex with you as you are with him. Yet you go along with his using HIV as the stated reason for not having sex. I'd urge you to totally back away from any investment in whether or not he gets tested and begin to focus on telling him how his not having sex with you makes you feel and how it is impacting upon and hurting the relationship.

I am concerned that you say that your mental health has always been delicate. Is this a contributing factor to your accepting a situation that is not working for you? If you want to stay in a relationship with him despite the lack of a satisfying sex life, then you have several choices. One is to live with the status quo as he sets it. The problem with this is that it leads to you not feeling equally as powerful in the relationship and may very well set the foundation for an enormous resentment to grow that can really become problematic.

Or, you can decide to stay in the relationship and insist that the two of you see a professional couples counselor who is very knowledgeable about both male couples and HIV in order to work on and hopefully address the problem.

Another option is to stay in the relationship and to initiate a conversation with him about not being monogamous since you have sexual needs that he is unwilling and unable to meet. I am not telling you what is the correct or best option. This is for you to wrestle with and figure out.

I hear how difficult and painful this situation is for you. Good luck with turning it around. Michael Shernoff, MSW

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