Jul 8, 1998
Hello. I was really touched by your letter to Dr. Shernoff. You seem so confused and pained that I wanted to tell you how I feel coming from "the other side". I am negative and my partner discovered that he is positive about ten months or so into our relationship. I wrote "HIV negative woman with positive man - how do I cope?" to Dr. Shernoff on May 26, 1998. I felt desperate and confused and very, very hopeless - not necessarily because my partner is HIV-positive, but because he was not communicating his feelings to me. I wondered constantly about the very same things that you express about yourself, specifically about whether or not my partner thought I was staying with him because I was sorry for him. I worried, also, that he would eventually push me away in an effort to protect me from HIV. I don't know you or your partner, but I can only tell you about myself: 1) I stay with my partner because I love and respect him, and 2) I think people push their partners out of their lives for many reasons that have nothing to do with HIV. You mentioned that your partner thinks that it would be easier if he also had HIV. Such thoughts have passed through my mind, too, but I am not serious about them. In fact, many, many disturbing thoughts have passed through my mind since my partner's diagnosis, but most of those thoughts and feelings have been resolved and I feel that our relationship is settling back to normal again. What I really would like to say to you, however, is that there are a few things that are very important to me when it comes to having a relationship (regardless of my partner's HIV status): communication regarding feelings, honesty, a positive attitude towards life and health. HIV threw a stone into our relationship but I think there are many other situations in life that can do the same amount of (or even more) damage to a relationship. I know I can deal with HIV as long as my partner and I are both willing to continue to build our levels of trust for each other and as long as we keep looking positively towards the future. I really think that Dr. Shernoff is correct in stressing that you honestly talk to and listen to each other. I know that my partner and I feel closest and that HIV seems like a very, very tiny issue when we do our best to communicate. I've been thinking about you ever since I read your letter, and I hope you are feeling at least a little bit better.
Response from Mr. Shernoff
I think that these are very wise and helpful words. I hope that what S is saying speaks to you. I thank S for sharing so honestly.
Michael Shernoff, MSW
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