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Poisonous Flower
Apr 21, 1999

I have been attractive all my life, but ironically since testing positive (December of 1998) and going on medication (Combivir and Viracept), I look even better. My problem is that I no longer like to go to any type of social function that might be the slightest bit "cruisy". For instance, last night I met some friends at a bar and was having a good time until this cute (and I mean really cute) 22 year old started flirting with me (I'm a 31 year old gay man by the way). It would have been so easy to pick him up, but I just couldn't. I feel like a poisonous flower, pretty on the outside but deadly on the inside. My friends thought I was nuts to pass up an opportunity like that. It's a small community here in Salt Lake City, Utah so I'm not sure I want people finding out I am positive, but I also want my partners to know the potential risks with being intimate with me. I start group therepy in April so I will probably be able to work through this on my own. Just wanted your input.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

I really feel for you and what you are going through. But there is definitley hope. I am not sure that group therapy will be enough, though it is an excellent start. I really applaud your concerns about being cautious about who knows your HIV status and not wanting to sleep with anyone without their knowing. Have you considered alternatives to just going home with someone who is cruising you?

For instance, in the situation you described, what prevented you from going over to talk with the young man? If after you chatted him up a bit you could always say, "I think you are very interesting and attractive (if you feel that way), but I am just not into quick pick ups. I'd love to exchange phone numbers and meet for coffee or a meal sometime. This way you could take your time getting to know a man who turns you on and see if after a few dates you feel that he is the kind of person you want to share your HIV status with.

The reason I suggest that group may not be enough is when you describe feeling like a poisonous flower it sems as if you are really using your HIV status as a way of focusing in on how you feel about yourself as a gay man. If you grew up in an LDS (Church of the Latter Day Saints, or Mormons for those of you who are not familiar with the term LDS) you must have an enormous amount of internalized shame and homophobia that being HIV positive is kicking up into being wildly active. To be able to deal with this you need a very skilled gay therapist who will resonate with the issues you are struggling with.

It will be a difficult and painful process, but completely worth all the effort if you journey down the path to wrestling with and learning how to lay these demons to rest. Best of luck.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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