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Can't Get It out of My Head
Jul 2, 2001

Dear Doctor,

I have be diagnosed with HIV in March of this year. CD4 of 357, viral load of 24,000. After a month of HARRT (Combvir and Sustiva), my vial load is undetectable and my CD4 is 457. Though this is my first result after starting my MEDS, my doctor states I should be very optimisic. He says I am a very healthy person and I should lead a very long and normal life. I can't help getting over this feeling of dread, that I will die shortly and I am not a happy person anymore. I can't stand being alone and though I have great suppot from my family, friends and HIV/AIDS support groups, I find myslef crying at least once a day and begging GOD to take me now. I do not wish to take my own life and I have not missed one dose of my meds (and I won't), why can't I let the good news in? I am looking for therapy but I figured I have nothing to lose by sending you this question.

Regards, Brooklyn NY

Response from Mr. Shernoff

It sounds like you are still in shock, and this is very understandable. It is never easy to adjust to having a life threatening illness. But it also sounds like you are very depressed and this concerns me and is something to worry about. Depression can be succesfully treated, but you must take action in order to begin to feel better.

I am greatly relieved to hear that you are looking for therapy. That is the only way you will begin to feel better. Ask your primary care doctor for a referral to a good psychotherapist who has worked with alot of people with HIV and AIDS. Since you also live in New York City, you can call the GMHC (Gay Men's Health Crisis) hotline and ask them for a referral to a skilled mental health professional.

Depression responds best to a combination of talk therapy and anti-depressant medications. If you begin to work with a psychologist or social worker who can not prescribe the anti-depressant than make sure that he or she refers you to an MD psychopharmacologist, (a psychiatrist who is a specialist in prescribing the numerous drugs used to treat mood disorders). They will work together as a team to make sure that you get the comprehensive care you need in order to begin to recover from the depression.

Please take the step of calling to get the name and phone number of a good mental health professional who is skilled in working with people with HIV and AIDS today. Left untreated depresssion gets worse and can be life threatening in and of itself.

Best of luck and make that call today! Michael Shernoff, MSW



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