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SEXUAL HEALING
Apr 26, 1999

My partner has tested positive the entire six years we've been together. The first three of those years, we we're practicing co-addicts, iv drug users, on methamphetimines. During that time we had an outstanding sexual relationship, and were, as we still are very much in love. After three years, he moved out, and cleaned up. I continued to use until last year (will be one year clean next month!). We stopped having sex after he got clean. He says he relates sex to the drugs, and no longer has any interest in sex anymore.He says it's "dead" down there. After I cleaned up, we moved back in together. We love eachother deeply, sleep together, cuddle, kiss, and are intimate in every way, but have not been naked together, or had any sexual contact in the three years he's beem clean. I have been patient, and the only "affair" I have had has been with my own hand, but I ache for what we once had, and we don't seem to be making any progress in that direction. This past January, he became disabled with PCP, and diagnosed with full blown AIDS. I was retested, and after three years of total disregard to safe sex, shared needles, and all else, remain negative. He is recuperating thanks to the wonderful miracle drugs we have now, but remains weak, physically,and in spirit. I am very involved in his treatment, and am supportive in all his needs, keeping quiet about mine as much as I can, but I am heartbroken to not be able to share the intimacy with him I feel so strongly. To be quite blunt, I think a good lay would do both of us a world of good, but I don't know what to do. Part of the problem may be his guilt, as he was an ordained minister some years ago, and is the divorced father of two grown children (both accepting of me, and our relationship). Thanks for letting me rant and rave, but I'm really lost here. I'm 45, he's 43, and I feel we have so much life in both of us. Our love is strong, and I'm sure we are soulmates, and will always be by his side. I've lately entertained thoughts of casual encounters, but I've yet to be unfaithful, and really don't want to "go there" We are wonderful together, but the subject of sex makes him very uncomfortable. It's very frustrating for me, and so very hard to understand. Thank you for being one of the "greats" in my search to helping us to be the best we can be, at any odds!

Response from Mr. Shernoff

Your problem is unfortunately not unique. I think you have your finger on the pulse of what many of the dynamics may be with your partner. The one you may have overlooked is the fact that as a result of either the HIV progressing and/or the meds he is on, he may in fact not have any sex drive. Has he had his serum testosterone levels checked by his MD to see if that may be a contributing factor to there being a physiological reason for his lack of a sex drive? If not, I urge you to suggest that he talk about this with his doctor. Testosterone therapy has helped thousands of PWAs revivie a flagging or nonexistent sex drive.

But there is another issue that has to be addressed. If he becomes uncommunicatve and uncomfortable when you try to get him to talk about the sexual problem you are having as a couple, then I urge you to raise with him having some sessoins with a couples counselor who is skilled in working with male couples and couples with HIV.

I respect and applaud your not having "cheated." SInce you use this term I gather that your relationship is a monogamous one. One solution if his sex drive does not return is to discuss renegotiating the agreement you have about sex with other people. I am not suggesting that you rush into actually having sex with other men, but it is crucial that this possibility be openly discussed as one option to be explored. Both of you need to share how just talking about this makes you each feel. That may provide you with some paths to explore that may be helpful.

Perhaps beginning to have talks about modified monogamy will help take some pressure off of him that will create a climate where the two of you can explore doing physically intimate, but not necessarily genital things together like taking a bath or shower and giving each other naked massages. Modifiying monogamy may be a solution when the two partners do not share the same desire for sex, but wish to remain in a committed relationship.

I urge you to also just tell him how you are feeling about not having sex with him, but do so without laying a guilt trip on him. I am certain he is already feeling badly aobut this. Also ask him to tell you how he feels aobut the lack of sex between the two of you and ask if he has any ideas for a possible solution. Ask him how he would feel if he has no desire about still playing with you sexually whether or not he gets an erection. Though this is far from a perfect solution, it may or may not be a partial solution to this serious and distressing problem.

Good luck and I hope that some of this is helpful. I really feel for you. Michael Shernoff, MSW



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