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Fear and Depression
Dec 28, 1998

Doctor, I am a married man who discovered 3 weeks ago while attempting to buy term life insurance that I am HIV+. This was the shock of my life. My wife and I both cried tears of joy when she tested negative. I assume it was because my viral load is at 600 that she was not infected. I was a happy man before I discovered that I was positive, with few worries in the world. Now I cry several times a day and feel anxious and depressed much of the time. I am receiving counseling and am continuing to work. My question is: Will these feelings of fear, depression, guilt, etc., fade after a time? Right now I am having a real struggle with life. Thank you for any input. Also Doctor Shernoff I noticed that you have been HIV+ since 1982, it gives everyone hope for the future! Thank you again.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

Your current emotional state is a normal one for an Your current emotional state is totally normal for any individual who is in the kind of intense crisis that follows learning that one has a life threatening illness. You are in shock and as you say your entire life has been turned upside down. Be very gentle with yourself for the next few months as you adjust to living with HIV.

The bad news is that you are infected. The good news is that you are taking charge of your life by seeking medical care, counseling and support. You are also in a very privileged position of having a loving life partner who is there with and for you. The other good news is if you have to be infected with HIV and have never been on anti-retroviral therapy, 1998 is a good time to learn that you are HIV positive because of all the numerous treatment options that are currently available and there are still more coming down the road.

Yes you will eventually begin to feel better as your life resumes normalacy, and as long as your health remains good, and there is a very good chance that your health can remain excellent, normalacy that accomodates living with HIV can happen as you regain your emotional balalnce. Being HIV positive will of course change your perspective on most aspects of your life, but eventually you will most likely even reach a place where there are moments or hours that you do not think about being infected with HIV.

Actively seek out all the support that is available and educate yourself. You must become an exquisitely informed and sophisticated consumer about HIV and health care. In a case like this knowledge is not only power, it is virtually life giving. Michael Shernoff, MSW



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