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Mixed Couple-Depression in + partner
Jul 17, 2001

My fiancee was misdiagnosed with coiltis for about 2 years. During that time we were having unprotected sex on average once per month due to the colitis. About 18 months ago she was correctly diagnosed as HIV+. I've been getting tested about 4 times since then and 3 times before we were together. Each time I've been negative. My problem is this, I love this woman with all my heart, But she often times gets depressed and shuts me out. In the best of times she has always had trouble sharing her emotions. But even though I try understand her condition I'm beginning to take the rejection as personal. I constantly reassure her how much she is loved and cared for by all who love her. But I'm starting to feel very alone myself. How can I help her and myself? Is there a program in New York where we or I could go for counseling.(She goes to a therapist and is on anti-depressants). I Love her dearly and we plan to get married soon. But it's getting rough. Especially since she has been getting outbreaks of Herpes...Please help us!!!!

Response from Mr. Shernoff

There is no way that you could not have strong emotional reactions to what this woman who you love is going through, and its impact upon you and your relationship. From what you say, she seems to be suffering from a very serious depression that predates her becoming HIV positive, that is not responding to her current treatments.

I suggest that you ask your fiance if you could go with her to meet with her therapist and psychopharmacologist if they are not the same person. This way you can share all of your concerns with the mental health professional or professionals who are currently treating her to give them your impressions of her mental and emotional state and to see if seeing them as a couple can help both her and you as a couple.

Clearly your fiance is trying to get help by being in therapy and on antidepressants. Perhaps, since you say she has never been good at expressing her emotions, she may not be telling her therapist and pharmacologist how badly she feels and that she is getting worse. This is why it may be very useful for you to go with her to tell them your impressions with her sitting there to corraborate what you are telling them.

If your fiance agrees for you to accompany her to these sessions, don't be surprised if after one or two visits together her therapist suggests that you find your own individual therapist to work with and another therapist to see you as a couple. In New York there are many therapists who are experienced in working with mixed antibody status couples. The HIV Center at New York State Psychiatric Institute has had a specific program for mixed antibody status couples. The Body has a specific forum for questions about mixed antibody status couples which is answered by Dr. Robert Remien, who in fact has been one of the professionals doing the research and work on couples of mixed antibody status. Why not post a question directly to him on the specific forum for the problem you are wrestling with?

Best of luck in working on these very painful and difficult issues. Michael Shernoff, MSW


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