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

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

Stigma "Lite": The FDA's Revised Ban on Gay Blood Donors
January 5, 2015

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently revised its decades-old policy on a lifetime prohibition of gay men donating blood. This ban, rooted in the early days of the HIV epidemic when transmission was poorly understood and (full-blown crazy) levels of stigma and discrimination abounded, has long needed to change. For me, the revised guidelines represent minimal progress because they exclude any gay man who has had sex with another man in the last year.

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The Other HIV Stigma: An Inside Job
November 21, 2014

On World AIDS Day, it is gratifying to see increased attention paid to stigma, which has a devastating impact on prevention, testing and treatment. Creative and thoughtful campaigns utilizing social media and other venues are beginning to make a difference. Some anti-stigma programs are even being mandated as part of international aid. While many programs don't yet effectively address institutional, governmental and religious power structures that perpetuate stigma, they are impacting education and skills to build empathy, each of which is extremely important.

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The Grief That Keeps on Giving: Thoughts on HIV, Loss, and an Opportunity to Heal
August 25, 2014

I first heard the news that Malaysian Airlines flight 17 had been shot out of the sky at a stopover in Sydney, en route to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne. I stared at the television in disbelief as the initial (and incorrect) coverage reported that as many as 100 conference delegates had been onboard. I felt numb even as the number of attendees on board dropped over the next few days to fifty and then, finally, to six, among them one of the world's leading HIV researchers from the Netherlands and an official of the World Health Organization.

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Aging (Gracefully?) With HIV: I Never Saw This Coming
April 27, 2014

I recently passed a major milestone: a big, round-numbered birthday that, frankly, I never expected to reach. It was odd to arrive at this point in my life because, having lived with HIV for over thirty years, I had good reason to suspect that I would not celebrate this passage, or for that matter, birthdays that occurred decades earlier.

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Creating Your Vision for the Coming Year
December 11, 2013

As the old year rolls over, it's natural to review how well our lives have functioned during the past 12 months. Many of us take the opportunity to make resolutions about changing our behavior. These often concern diet, getting to the gym, or cutting back on other things that might not contribute to our health. This well-intentioned exercise often collapses, falling away within weeks (or even days) as our resolve and the routines of daily living once again intrude into our hope that this year will be different.

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This Again? New Opportunities to Disclose My HIV Status (or Not)
October 29, 2013

I have lived with HIV for so many years that the whole issue of disclosure seems moot. Every important person in my life knows my status, as do my colleagues, clients, and for that matter, anyone who comes across my postings on and The I am well aware of the complexities of disclosure and work with others to address their concerns, but it has been a long time since I experienced the issue.

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Lessons Learned When the Labs Go Awry
September 9, 2013

It began simply enough. My doctor's office called to say that he wanted to speak with me directly about follow-up lab results. When pressed, the staff said he would not discuss anything over the phone. We scheduled an office visit for the next available appointment, several days away. Over the years I have received the same summons many times. They begin with a call stating that the doctor needs to see me in person. Memories of those calls came flooding back, along with an uncomfortable heavy sensation in my stomach. Some of those calls have been devastating (cancer), others were non-events. I hung up the phone, closed my eyes and tried to center myself, with little success.

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Flashback: Diana Ross in Central Park
May 17, 2013

She arrived on the stage covered in colorful braids amid stylized African dancers. Drums played exotic rhythms as she unveiled herself before 800,000 people -- the largest in the history of Central Park. Dressed in a glittering orange suit with billowing fabric, Diana Ross welcomed the cheering masses as an ominous summer storm darkened the sky. She created a magic spell with song and, at one point, implored the audience to "make a wish and let it go." As dusk fell the winds picked up and sweeping veils of rain moved in over the park. Television cameras captured her soaked hair and face. Oblivious to the torrential downpour, she became one with the crowd.

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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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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.

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