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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W.

Riding the Tiger: Life Lessons From an HIV-Positive Therapist

The Dark Side of "Poz Envy"
September 13, 2012

It began rather insignificantly but quickly escalated. The group which I had facilitated for several years consisted of ten to twelve gay men of all ages, most of whom were HIV negative. That night I mentioned a new service for people living with HIV and one man asked, "Why do the positive guys get everything? What about us negative guys?" Another group member spoke up about poz friends who were eligible for all kinds of support. He was indignant that he had been laid off, was struggling and, unlike "them," lacked access to community services such as food banks and housing assistance. Someone else expressed annoyance, and a fourth growled his protest. A strong and divisive vein of anger within the gay community had been exposed.

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Living With HIV: Are We 'Damaged Goods'?
August 15, 2012

Todd sat slumped on the sofa in my office. He avoided eye contact and described a particularly painful experience with stigma. He had recently come around the corner at his part-time job and heard several co-workers speaking about him and his HIV positive status. More specifically, they were discussing how he might have acquired the virus by speculating about the nature and frequency of his sexual activities. It was meant as a cheap laugh among themselves, but for Todd it meant much more. Although he made no effort to hide his HIV status and was "out" at the office about being gay, hearing his co-workers making disparaging remarks about his sex life and his health status in such explicit terms felt like a strong punch in his gut. He had a brief flash of anger, telling them to shut up, and then stormed out, pulling inward and automatically falling into the old habit of numbing himself by detaching from the emotional pain.

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Names on a Quilt
August 3, 2012

Oppressive temperatures were hitting the century mark, adding to the surreal scenery surrounding me. The air was thick with dust and it was unnervingly still, portending the violent storm that would sweep through in just hours. Before me, in the bright afternoon sun, was a sea of AIDS Memorial Quilt panels carefully assembled on the mall in Washington. They seemed to stretch forever. In the distance the dome of the Capitol rose above the colorful sea of fabric. Behind me, a volunteer somberly read the unending list of individuals claimed by HIV/AIDS.

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Positive Living 15: Connecting Hearts and Minds
March 26, 2012

Several attendees drove fifteen hours from St. Louis. Others came by caravan from Atlanta. In the hotel lobby there were happy reunions of friends who hadn't seen each other since last year. Overall nearly four hundred and fifty people made their way from 22 states to the white sandy beaches of the Florida panhandle in early March. It was spring break, but their purpose was much more a matter of life and death. They were gathering for Positive Living 15, the largest conference in the nation specifically for people living with HIV.

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Pain, Drugs and the Risks of Self-Medication
February 14, 2012

Even the bed sheet touching my skin was intolerable. The sharp pain was centered in my toes and had kept me sleepless for three nights in a row. It was the worst neuropathy I had ever experienced and I was near despair. My only relief was to lower my feet and sit up in a chair trying to sleep. That was my situation last year when, for some unknown reason, my neuropathic pain suddenly escalated. Over the years I had been relatively lucky. I had become accustomed to numb and tingly feet but I had rarely experienced such severe discomfort. Only on one other occasion, when I broke a toe, had the nerves in my feet rebelled with excruciating stinging which had lasted for months.

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Under The Radar: Mental Health and HIV Risk
November 22, 2011

Getting the level of new infections down to zero will require breakthroughs not only in medications and improved interventions, but also a broadening of our understanding about the underlying causes of high-risk behaviors which can increase vulnerability for HIV, specifically, mental health concerns.

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"Supersized Alcopops": The Dangers of Excessive Alcohol Consumption for People Living With HIV
October 27, 2011

Public apprehension about recreational drugs, especially those that impact HIV, seems to come in waves that swell with increasing alarm and then peak and fade away, always to be replaced by the next "drug du jour." Heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, each with a well-deserved reputation for putting people at risk for HIV or, if HIV positive, for interfering with their ability to properly manage their health, have all gained notoriety in recent years.

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"Let Them Die"? The Dangers of Losing Compassion
September 30, 2011

Several widely-televised incidents recently exemplified the harsh and frightening polarization we are experiencing in our society. The first was at the Republican debate at the Reagan Presidential Library where the audience spontaneously clapped and cheered when Governor Rick Perry's record of 234 executions was discussed. The second was a clear shout from the audience of "let them die" when Representative Ron Paul was asked hypothetically if he would treat an uninsured individual who required medical attention. For me, these were stunning moments of disbelief.

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Volunteering Can Make You Healthy and Happy
July 20, 2011

Did you know that giving your time and effort on behalf of someone else can actually improve your mood and overall health? Although it sounds too good to be true, that is the conclusion of a number of studies on a variety of populations from around the world. Scientists are still unraveling the specifics, but there are some intriguing clues documenting the health benefits of volunteering.

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Living Longer by Living With Purpose
July 6, 2011

Some years ago a friend of mine sold his successful veterinary practice in the Midwest, bought a van, and headed to California to pursue his lifelong dream of writing music. People no doubt thought he had lost his mind, or at least regressed from being a responsible adult to a frivolous adolescent searching for himself. Years later, he has had some success with his music, but most of all, he has experienced the thrilling notion that he followed his heart.

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See Also
Guide to Conquering the Fear, Shame and Anxiety of HIV
Trauma: Frozen Moments, Frozen Lives
More on Coping With Stress and Anxiety

Riding the Tiger: Life Lessons From an HIV-Positive Therapist

David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., is a social worker, certified sex therapist and clinical hypnotherapist. He has worked in the areas of mental health and substance abuse for more than 25 years.

Diagnosed with HIV in 1988, David is dedicated to promoting physical and emotional resilience in his own life and in the lives of his psychotherapy clients. Like the Hindu goddess Durga, he strives to live fearlessly and patiently, never losing his sense of humor even in battles of epic proportions.

David's blog entries have appeared on LifeLube and The Bilerico Project, Florida. He's also a contributor to's blog for health care providers, HIV Care Today. He answers questions about Mental Health and Substance Use in two separate "Ask the Experts" forums on David resides in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., with his partner.

David is the author of Lust, Men and Meth: A Guy Mans Guide to Sex and Recovery. Learn more about David on his website,

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