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magnetic but worried

Jun 15, 2006

Dear doctor Bob, A little more than a year ago, while searching for information about how to have safe sex while HIV positive, I came across your forum on TheBody and I have been a fervent reader ever since. I was amazed (and still am) by the way you manage to treat a not so amusing subject without ever losing your sense of humor, and by your great patience with so many worried well people. I lost my husband accidentally in the late eighties, and at that point thought as many other heterosexual people that HIV was a terrible epidemic but that it would never concern me personally. What a stupid delusion. Several years later, I tried to rebuild some kind of life but put my trust in the wrong place. That was my second mistake: to think I was safe because in a monogamous relationship. This relationship didnt work out, and I returned to my own country, promising myself to be tested as soon as possible as I had a few small doubts. Two months after my return, I thought I was getting a bad cold with fever, but resisted for a week or so because I had just been given back my old job and didnt want to fall sick. When my first break came for Easter I collapsed in a heap and by then was really worried as the fever was high and my body going through some measles like symptoms, something rather disturbing, as I had experienced that illness as a child and had always been told that it never happens twice. I called my doctor and he told me to come to his office as soon as the holiday was over if things werent better. When I saw him, he checked a lot of things, and decided to have blood tests, so of course I asked him to include a HIV test, something which he probably had thought about himself, but I had never heard of ARS and was very innocent. It took a long time (this was in 96). After ten days, my doc who is also a very old friend showed up at my door, and I knew something was very wrong. I had just sero-converted (thats what ARS is called in French). I was put on meds straight away, as that was the politic in Switzerland at the time, and included in a medical protocol. Since then I have been doing very well, and my results have been terrific (high CD4 count, presently 715 and undetectable virus load) but for years I could never bring myself to actually get close to anybody, as I was too frightened to put anyone else at risk. I did visit a local support group, am now working with them in small ways, and everyone there told me that I could still live a normal sex life if sticking to certain safety rules that I now know quite well. Three years ago, I came into contact with someone and the feeling was so strong that although this was happening long distance, we came to feel terribly close and kind of fell in love. When we first started talking about meeting, I thought I would have to tell him about my situation. It took me several hours to find the right words, but I did manage to tell him everything, and when I found that he still wanted to go on with this relationship, I thought I had found somebody very special (and I had).We finally met last year after having discussed all the safety issues, and gathered as much information (and material) as possible on the subject (I think thats how I came across TheBody, as he doesnt speak French). We had a beautiful time but for one small instance where he cut his finger on the door latch and got us both worried as it wasnt quite clear at what time the cut had taken place, so we both felt it would be best if he got tested three months later, as, as you would have said, it was a very small risk but better safe than sorry. I know he went through three terrible months until the time he could be tested, and to everyones relief, the test was negative. However, I think the stress during that period was too much for him, and that since then he cannot think about us meeting again for the time being, as he says that he doesnt think he would be able to do so without getting close to me and that he doesnt want to go through that anxiety for another three months of his life. Ive tried to be rational and even thought it would be best for both of us to just call the whole thing off as for me it is also a hard emotional test, but it just doesnt seem to work as we keep getting back into contact. I know that this sounds more like an emotional issue than a medical one, but since you are part of a magnetic couple and seem to be doing great (but you guys seem to be able to cope much better than heterosexual men with this kind of issues, maybe because you have a greater feelings of solidarity or something like that) I wondered if you would have an answer to my problem. Do you think it is possible for someone that is that frightened to ever change, or am I just working myself into the ground? I dont feel I am the right person here to give him good, unbiased advice. Seems it got much longer than I wanted it to be, but still, I want to thank you for all the good work youre doing, this planet would be a much better place if there were more people like you around. Best thoughts from Switzerland.

Response from Dr. Frascino


Thanks for writing in and sharing your story.

Do I think frightened folks can change? Sure, but first they have to want to change, and I'm not at all sure that is the case with your current guy. Counseling, particularly couples counseling, can be very helpful. However, that may be difficult in your situation.

At this point, he's basically told you he's not willing to meet up again, despite his obvious feelings for you. Clearly he is rejecting the virus, not you. My advice would be to accept his decision and suggest to him that he get counseling to see if that helps. Ultimately, he may be singing "The One That Got Away" blues. Personally, I doubt you can be both the person providing him with rational advice and the person he's afraid to love. The next move is his, not yours. And I suggest you not wait around and wonder if and when he'll make that move. Your Mr. Right is out there somewhere waiting for you and he won't be irrationally afraid to give you the closeness, love, compassion and passion you deserve.

Good luck! In true magnetic relationships, opposites attract rather than repel! Don't settle for less than that!

Dr. Bob

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