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Mental Block
Jul 13, 2001

In February my husband of 10 years fell ill. Upon being admitted to the hospital, we found out that he had PCP, MAC and was HIV+. We have no clue as to how he contracted HIV, because he is hetrosexual and I truly believe him when he says that he has been faithful to me. Of course I have made the decision to stay with him. Last week he was diagnosed with Kaposi's Sarcoma (oral) and he is getting ready to start chemotherapy. Now for the problem, I have been tested for HIV twice since he was diagnosed in February and the results have been negative both times. It seems as if since he was first diagnosed with this, I am having a "Mental Block" when it comes to being intimate with him. When we have been intimate, we take all precautions needed, but I cant seem to shake the feeling that I will become infected. Now that he has Kaposi's Sarcoma, I can not bring myself to even "french kiss" him. This whole thing is driving me nuts, he is my husband & I know that I can not get KS from kissing him, but I cant get it out of my head. I have talked with him about this and have reassured him that it is a mental block with me - not him, but I dont know what to do to make the situation better. Do you have any suggestions? I truly want to make my marriage successful, but a sexless marriage is not a true marriage to me & I know that that kind of comfort would be truly beneficial to him at this point. Any advice you can give me will be truly appreciated. Thanks!

Response from Mr. Shernoff

It is completely understandable that you would be overwhelmed with alot of feelings since learning about your husband's diagnosis. Obviously the way your feelings and fears are showing themselves is in your inability to be sexual with him.

People do not just contract HIV without doing something, whether it is sharing IV drug using paraphernalia or having unprotected sex with an infected individual, in order to become infected. You sound very educated about HIV, so I assume that you know this, and this is probably troubling you profoundly, even if it is only unconsciously. This would help explain part of your being sexually shut down towards him.

The only advice I can suggest is that you find a very skilled mental health professional who has experience working with mixed antibody status couples and begin working with him or her. If you were coming to see me I would work alot with you individually, but also with you and your husband.

Unless you begin to get this kind of skilled professional assistance I do not believe that you will be able to overcome this serious problem that is troubling you.

Best of luck.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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