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Difficulty Disclosing
Dec 12, 1997

I've been dating someone for a while now and have yet to disclose to him that I am HIV-positive. I'm adamant about safer sex and so is he, so that's not an issue. I suspect he knows I'm seropositive; there are definite clues to this -- for example, in the way we approach sex, and in what we choose NOT to talk about. I'm almost certain he's HIV-negative. He's never asked my serostatus -- and believe me, if he did ask, I would answer truthfully. His continuing silence is perpetuating MY silence, and for someone like me who has languished in denial from time to time, it's a cushy situation. I've made up my mind to open up the discussion soon, and I'm really not that afraid to do it; but just how does one deal with proscrastination on the issue of HIV disclosure to a partner? Is it reprehensible to wait -- or just plain childish? Is this as difficult a situation for others?

Response from Mr. Shernoff

This is always a profoundly difficult situation for almost every HIV positive individual who is seeking sex partners or a relationship. If you feel that this relationship is not just a casual affair, and is building towards something major than that could be your lead in.

"I feel very close to you, and good about the time we spend together, but there is something important that we need to talk about so that we can both continue to grow closer to each other." I think that any version of this, with a simply "I feel terrible about not having told you before, but it never seemed like the right time." is an appropriate way to open up the conversation. Remember to ask him how he feels about both the fact that you are HIV positive and that you did not tell him for a long time. Try not to get defensive about how he responds, but just be empathetic to his feelings and concerns.

Good luck, and I am really glad that you are moving towards telling your boyfriend in the immediate future.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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