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HIV+ / HIV- Reading Materials?
Sep 30, 1998

Hello and thank you for reading this. I have been HIV+ for ten years, have remained healthy, my T's are very good, and my viral load is undetectable. Above all, my frame of mind is extremely positive. I refuse to ever give up or give in, and with the advent of the newer medicines, I know I can live a longer and healthier life.

Although I haven't dated in the ten years since I have had HIV, I recently met the most incredible man. He's loving, sweet, caring, kind, witty, and very handsome, and he has captured my heart. He seems very fond of me, which, after all this time, is the most wonderful feeling. As you can imagine, in my opinion he must be quite extraordinary to jump into the dating scene after such a long absence. This past Saturday I told him I have HIV. He took the news okay, although admitted he was disappointed (which I completely understand). He was extremely supportive as well. The next day he called and asked to meet with me so he could talk about a few things. He'd been up most of the night before thinking about our situation and wanted to reassure me that he wanted to be a part of my life...but wasn't quite sure in what capacity; whether it be as a friend or something more. I expected he'd experience some aftershock, so I was supportive of him and what he is going through for I understand only too well. He asked me to be patient with him, and I am praying with all my heart that he'll want to be more than my friend.

I promised him I'd never put him in any danger sexually. We talked about the reality of having safe sex whether you know anyone's status or not. He then told me that he was having a very difficult time of thinking about getting involved with me and then having to deal with me dying. Again, because of my ultra-positive attitude (along with the good fortune of remaining healthy after ten years), I told him I'd be around for quite awhile and I had no plans to go anywhere anytime soon! :-] (that is truly how I approach this whole HIV ordeal). It also touched my heart that he would even consider this aspect of the HIV....since I hadn't been dating, I hadn't experienced this before.

I'm making this a longer story than I probably should, but I was hoping that you would be able to recommend some reading materials for both of us...particularly my new friend; something that would possibly help him concerning the issue of worrying about falling for me and then losing me. I have scoured the net and printed out a whole bunch of articles and medical information, and I have also suggested that we go see my doctor together and then he could talk to my doctor by himself if he would like. But if there are any books that you might be able to suggest, I would sincerely appreciate it. I know counseling is also something we can do (just want you to know I'm aware of all the possible things we can do to work this out if he's willing to do so).

Before I exit, I have read many of your posts to people on a variety of topics and think you are to be commended for your insight and compassion. Thank you for the work you do for all of us dealing with the many issues associated with this disease. I wish you continued good health. I will look forward to your response and am very hopeful you'll be able to recommend some reading materials for us. Thank you so very much.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

I am glad that since your health is so good and that your mental and emotional outlook is so positive that you are now open to the possibility of having a loving relationship in your life. There are thousands of couples of mixed HIV anti-body status who are forming profoundly satisfying loving partnerships despite the uncertainties and anxieties of living with one partner having HIV.

I think that if he is interested in being more than a friend to you, a joint visit to your physician is a good thing to do so that your new friend can ask your MD all the questions about your health and prognosis that he needs in order to decide if he feels comfortable dating you.

Unfortunately I do not know of any books that deal with mixed anti-body status couples. There are some articles in the professional mental health literature that do discuss the emotional and psychological issues of these couples.

Dr. Robert Remian is a psychologist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute's HIV Center in Manhattan. He is internationaly recognized as one of the world's experts on this issue. He is currently researching mixed anti-body status couples. He has also written on this topic. His writing is not overly clinical and is very easily understood by the nonprofessional reader.

One of his recent articles is called "Couples of Mixed HIV Status: Challenges and Strategies for Intervention with Couples." This was published in a paperback book entitled "Psychotherapy and AIDS; The Human Dimension" edited by Lucy Wicks and published by Taylor & Frances in 1997. Addtionaly he is the coauthor with Ray Smith of another article on this topic in a new book of mine that will be published in December of this year by Harrington Park Press and titled "AIDS and Mental Health Practice; Clinical and Policy Issues."

Best of luck and I hope that things work out for you with this man, but in case they do not, please remain open to finding love and a permanent partner despite being HIV positive. Michael Shernoff, MSW



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