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Boyfriend wants to risk infection
Dec 8, 1998

I am infected with HIV and am doing fine--however my boyfriend who is negative says he feels so close to me he wants to stop using a condom and risk infection. I think he's crazy. But he says that it's not such a big deal--I'm doing fine and don't have any OI's or anything and he just wants not to use a condom. I don't know what to do. He really preassures me a lot and says I must not want to be close to him. But really I would feel too quilty if I infected ANYONE! What should I do?

Response from Mr. Shernoff

I think that though I understand your boy friend's desire to be closer to you and that always having to wear a condom during anal sex and his not being able to swallow you are barriers to that closeness, he is misdirected in trying to guilt you into stopping having safer sex. The best thing that you can tell him is that you really understand his feelings about wanting to feel closer by ceasing to have safe sex, but that you love him too much to take any chance of infecting him. Research has proven that even if you have undetectable viral loads in your blood, there is still virus in your semen and that it can still be transmitted.

I'd also like you to suggest that your boyfriend find a therapist or counselor that he can talk about this issue with. Since his willingness to become infected with a potentially life threatening illness is such a potentially self-destrucitve way of his wanting to experience a more intense closeness with you I believe that he would benefit from good professional help in understanding this desire as a misplaced means of achieving the increased intimacy and closeness each of you desire.

Unfortuantely your BF has not really understood just how horrible it is for any of us to have to live with this disease. Triple combination therapy has provided some people with the mistaken idea that HIV is now just like Diabetes.Most of those people are the lucky ones who have not been infected...so far! But having to take so many pills on such a specific schedule and live with the side effects is not any picnic. Not to mention that we don't know how long these new treatments will remain effective.

So, spend alot of time exploring with him what other ways the two of you can continue to build a permanent partnership and grow ever closer without endangering his life. I hope that he sees your unwillingness to risk infecting him as part of your desire to be close to him by behaving in a way that tough less sexually satisfying increases the emotional bond by reenforcing your feelings for the man you love.

This is such a difficult issue for each of us to continually navigate. Thank you for your willingness to share your problem. I know that thousands of other couples both gay and straight are wrestling with this issue. I really hope that your BF grows to see how else the two of you can grow closer.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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