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Michael Shernoff, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., A.C.S.W.: In Memoriam

March 31, 1951 - June 17, 2008

June 23, 2008

Michael Shernoff, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., A.C.S.W.
Michael Shernoff, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., A.C.S.W.
TheBody.com mourns the death of HIV-positive therapist and author Michael Shernoff, who died at home on June 17 after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Shernoff, a pioneer in sex education for HIV prevention, had a private practice in New York City largely focused on gay men, many of them HIV positive. He also answered questions for The Body's "Ask the Experts" forum on mental health for six years.

Shernoff was diagnosed with HIV in 1982, long before the term "AIDS" was coined. He had already been HIV positive for years before his diagnosis; a test found the presence of HIV in blood he had donated for a clinical study on hepatitis B in 1977. From the moment of his diagnosis, Shernoff was at the center of the U.S. epidemic: In 1983 he began volunteering at Gay Men's Health Crisis, and in 1985 he created a pioneering workshop on HIV prevention with his professional partner Luis Palacios-Jimenez. The workshop emphasized a sensual, upbeat approach to safe sex, earning them recognition as the "Dr. Ruths of gay sex."

The HIV epidemic ultimately claimed many of Shernoff's loved ones. In the 1980s, his elder brother and Palacios-Jimenez both died due to AIDS-related complications, and in 1995 his partner Lee also died from complications of AIDS. Lee's passing inspired Shernoff to edit the first book ever published on gay men who have lost a partner.

Shernoff worked as a psychotherapist for gay men in New York City from 1975 until 2006, when he retired following the discovery that he had pancreatic cancer. Shernoff also taught at both Columbia University School of Social Work and Hunter College Graduate School of Social Work. He saw his first client with AIDS in 1981 (at a time when it was known as Gay-Related Immune Deficiency, or GRID), and throughout the next two decades he counseled hundreds of people living with HIV.

Professionally, Shernoff wrestled with some of the most difficult dilemmas the U.S. HIV epidemic presented, including the persistence of bareback sex among gay men who understand its risks, and the emotionally wrenching issue of how to cope with the loss of a partner to the virus. He edited and authored eight books on HIV and gay health over the last 15 years, including Gay Widowers: Life After the Death of a Partner, AIDS And Mental Health Practice: Clinical and Policy Issues and Without Condoms: Unprotected Sex, Gay Men & Barebacking.

Shernoff is survived by his partner of nine years, John Goodman; his brothers, Jeffrey Shernoff and Jerome Feldherr; and his sister, Barbara Safchik. A memorial service will be held September 7 at 3 p.m. at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. Donations in Michael Shernoff's memory can be sent to The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, The Nature Conservancy or the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Shernoff was remembered by The New York Times, Gay City News and Gay Men's Health Crisis. On TheBody.com, you can also read Shernoff's reflections on living with HIV and dating when you're HIV positive, as well as selected responses he wrote during his six-year tenure in our "Ask the Experts" forum on mental health.


  
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This article was provided by TheBody.com.
 
See Also
More HIV Activist Obituaries

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Stephen Urquhart (London, UK) Sat., Jun. 6, 2009 at 6:17 pm EDT
I have come to know of Michael through his articles, as a trainee counsellor, I have found them to be touching, funny but always with an underlying meaning whether related to HIV, or living life as a gay man.

A bright shining star has been taken all to soon. May his partner take consolation in the fact that although Michael may have gone, he will be remembered by many people he touched.

May angels sing thee to thy rest Michael.
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Comment by: Victor Cerna(Lima,Peru) Sun., Aug. 17, 2008 at 10:36 am EDT
He was a talented professional that answered many of my doubts while i was dealing with my gayness. Though far away from me, i felt him as an older brother that was always there for me with his wisdom and compassion... I will surely miss him......!!!
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Comment by: Ariel Sun., Aug. 17, 2008 at 1:17 am EDT
Gracias por tu bondad y dedicacion. Dios te tenga a tu lado y te de paz. Mis condolencias a la familia.
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Comment by: Kris Mon., Aug. 11, 2008 at 6:42 am EDT
Gosh, I'm just heart sick to hear about his death. May he rest in peace.
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Comment by: Ricardo Ruiz Mon., Aug. 4, 2008 at 1:49 pm EDT
Without Condoms is one of the researches more stimulating and courageous Iíve read for years.
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Comment by: Daniel Del Valle Mon., Jul. 28, 2008 at 7:42 pm EDT
If they're really is a heaven, I know you're there. My condolence to Michael's family and friends.
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Comment by: Charles Neal (U.K.) Wed., Jul. 23, 2008 at 2:17 pm EDT
What an inspiration, what a teacher, what a great therapist and social reformer Michael was. A sad and profound loss to our community. We have all benefitted from the gift of Michael's life and work.
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Comment by: ian Sat., Jul. 19, 2008 at 12:50 pm EDT
cndolence to the famoly of michael.i was inspired with his story.
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Comment by: Neil Thu., Jul. 17, 2008 at 3:29 pm EDT
Another Angel gone back to home to rest. God bless your soul and thank you for what you have done for others. This proves that we do get a glimpse at Angels. Rest in Peace. Neil (South Africa)
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Comment by: Dennie T. Tue., Jul. 15, 2008 at 12:15 pm EDT
May you rest in total happiness Michael! I know that my brother Kevin will greet you with open arms!
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Comment by: Roger Deale Wed., Jul. 9, 2008 at 11:58 pm EDT
The gift of self is greater when remembered and revered. Loss is not the winner here. Embrace those around you and continue your fight..........RD
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Comment by: Tom Tue., Jul. 8, 2008 at 2:06 pm EDT
In this time of turmoil and loss, let us all keep Michael in our prayers and all those who are dealing with illness.
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Comment by: Chris Lacharite, PhD, C Tue., Jul. 8, 2008 at 9:13 am EDT
I worked with Michael many years ago when he brought his Hot Horny & Health workshops to Boston. He was truly a gifted therapist, a compassionate man, and a role model for many gay men living with HIV disease
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Comment by: Toby Newman LCSW Tue., Jul. 8, 2008 at 12:39 am EDT
I didn't know Michael had died. I am very sad to have lost such a brilliant colleague.
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Comment by: toad Thu., Jul. 3, 2008 at 8:22 pm EDT
how sad to read of michaels' death.
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Comment by: HIVoutreach Wed., Jul. 2, 2008 at 1:36 pm EDT
We lost a very dear and courageous fighter loosing Michael. We can only hope others will be inspired to continue in his footsteps.
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Comment by: David Sat., Jun. 28, 2008 at 1:10 am EDT
Michael was a great therapist who helped me through a very difficult period. I am saddened to learn of his death but inspired by the times I spent with him.
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Comment by: Eric Martinez Tue., Jun. 24, 2008 at 6:22 pm EDT
I am honored to have shared the last year of his life volunteering together!
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Comment by: Senia Tue., Jun. 24, 2008 at 5:36 am EDT
My condolence to Michael Shernoff family and and friends. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
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