A "Negative" Outlook: Dr. Steve Natterstad Shares Secrets to a Successful Magnetic Relationship
August 10, 2010
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You could say that Dr. Steven Natterstad is one half of the most famous "magnetic couple" on TheBody.com. His partner of nearly 17 years, popular blogger Dr. Bob Frascino, is known among readers of his Safe Sex and HIV Prevention forum for his missives on the kind of "toe-curling, own-name-forgetting, wake-the-neighbors" sex life that he and Dr. Steve enjoy, despite their magnetic status. Dr. Steve is HIV negative, while Dr. Bob has been living with HIV since 1991. We all know Dr. Bob's thoughts on their relationship, but what's Dr. Steve got to say about his best friend and lawfully-wedded husband? It was my pleasure recently to find out.
Steven M. Natterstad, M.D.
When "Dr. Steve" isn't responding to questions from our Spanish-speaking readers on TheBody.com's Tratamientos forum, he runs the Frascino Medical Group, which provides comprehensive care for people living with HIV/AIDS. With his partner of nearly 17 years, Dr. Bob Frascino, he cofounded the Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation -- a philanthropic nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS services. Drs. Steve and Bob live with their dog, Presto Frascino-Natterstad, in northern California.
Welcome once again to TheBody.com, Dr. Steve!
Thank you. Good to be here.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. We can just start from the beginning. Can you talk a little bit about the community where you grew up?
Sure. I was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I guess you could call it the "flyover zone" of the U.S. Shortly after my birth, my family actually relocated to Fresno, California, in the Central Valley. I guess as you might think of Sioux Falls, South Dakota as a flyover zone, a lot of us Californians might think of Fresno as that "drive-through zone" of California. They're actually quite similar culturally, those two places, even though they're a couple thousand miles apart.
Essentially I grew up a straight child in a very straight, conservative, religious family. My father was a minister, my mother an elementary school teacher -- in addition to her role as first lady of the church, of course. So I've been in California ever since I was three months old, first in central California, and then fortunately we relocated to southern California, the Los Angeles area, when I was in junior high school. I expanded my horizons a bit in that region, in junior high school and high school.
Then, believe it or not, I went from the thriving metropolis of L.A. to Fargo, North Dakota, for college, to go to Concordia College, which is a family school on both sides of my family. Both my parents went there and met there, so there was a long tradition of going to that school. So I ended up going back to the Midwest for four years before I escaped once again to the West Coast and ended up at UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles] med school and continued on at UCLA to do my internal medicine residency and fellowship. And then I came to the Bay Area.
What year did you come to the Bay Area?
In the early '90s, actually. In 1991 I moved up the Bay Area and took a job at a large multi-specialty group on the Peninsula and actually met Dr. Bob before I had even taken the job. Kind of an interesting story. I was getting ready to accept the position. I was sitting outside a boardroom waiting to be offered the job, and Bob was waiting to meet with the board as well. (I'm going to call him "Bob" rather than Dr. Bob -- he only asks that I call him Dr. Bob under very unusual circumstances, so I'll just call him Bob for now) So I actually met Bob before I even moved up to the Bay Area.
I knew him for a couple of years, even after I started working at the group. We became good friends but didn't actually become involved with each other until 1993, largely due to my being unsure of who I was. I was closeted to everyone at that time, including myself. I was quite clueless and searching. As I searched and figured some things out then, suddenly, Bob took on a new aura; and the rest is history, as you might say.
I should back up a bit: The reason we got to know each other is that I had interest in HIV medicine even back then. As I said, I went to medical school in UCLA and did my training there, and of course, L.A. was one of the Ground Zeros of the epidemic in the '80s. When I joined the group up here in the Bay Area, Bob was already doing the lion's share of the HIV work at this clinic. But he was primarily interested in doing more of the outpatient work, so he welcomed an internist like me, who was more interested in doing some of the inpatient work, of which there was a fair amount back in the early '90s, of course. So we started working together, basically both working in HIV medicine, and got to know each other as colleagues quite well.
"I remember thinking to myself, 'If only Bob was a woman, he would just be the perfect life partner for me,' because that's where I was back then."
But I do remember having a conversation with him and discussing some of our interests, which include classical piano -- we're both classical pianists -- and just having a great conversation. I remember thinking to myself, "If only Bob was a woman, he would just be the perfect life partner for me," because that's where I was back then in those days. So things have changed considerably.
Can you talk a little bit about how you went from being colleagues and friends, with you wishing Bob were a woman so you two could date each other, to actually being involved in a relationship?
Well, as I mentioned, I was at that point in my life where I was starting to question things. I had gotten through medical training and basically had my first real job. I had bought a house up here in the Bay Area. I think I was starting to reflect on my life seriously, trying to figure out what was missing. Everything else seemed to be going along quite well professionally, but personally there was definitely a void.
I had experiences over the years having to do with figuring out my sexuality, but those had been earlier in life. I spent my 20s trying to convince myself and everyone else that I was straight. I think by that point in my life, my early 30s, I finally started entertaining seriously that that might not be the case.
They say timing is everything. I think at that point in my life, I was becoming more open to other possibilities for who I was as a sexual being, and Bob was there. As many of your readers know, he's pretty much Mr. Wonderful in many ways. So it didn't take much convincing for that to all happen. It all progressed pretty quickly.
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Comment by: Peter Templeton
Sun., Feb. 12, 2012 at 9:26 pm UTC
I worked with both Steve and Bob and found each to be the essence of reality-based human beings. Bob will be missed and Steve will be present to the reality of their relationship as time goes on. Great interview, Steve!
Comment by: Bert
Fri., Aug. 27, 2010 at 10:33 am UTC
Hi Dr. Steve
I enjoyed your take on the magnetic life.
My neg partner of 40 years literally saved my life when I was dying of AIDs related complications in 1998.
He cared for me for five weeks straight- twenty four hours a day, helping me to the bathroom and bathing me after I'd soiled my self (if that ain't love, nothing is), feeding me Ensure the first three weeks(it was all I could keep down), and then helping me to walk again. I had been bedridden so long my leg muscles atrophied, as well as losing sixty pounds.
Did I mention he's 5'4" and I'm 6'4"?
I'm so glad you and DR. Bob got the chance to be legally married, hopefully in another forty years the rest of us will enjoy that right as well.
BTW, I always read Dr. Bob's responses in the forums and blogs as soon as I recieve the email and especially enjoy the "Strange But True" responses
Best of luck and bless both of you for the work you do.
Comment by: Bob M.
(New York City)
Fri., Aug. 27, 2010 at 6:25 am UTC
I am a long term survivor and contracted the virus before I could have done anything about it. Having recently met the love of my life, who is negative, I want to thank you so much for all of the informative information you are giving about serodiscordant couples. You have helped me look at the road ahead intelligently and inspired me to make sure that my partner is informed with all of the best information, so that we can make good decisions together. Your website is an essential in my life. Bob M
Comment by: Christopher
Thu., Aug. 26, 2010 at 4:49 pm UTC
As much as I wish these couples and you happiness, I have now resigned to the reality of being 52, positive, on meds and living in a small conservative town.
The only way I would ever find a partner is to move, (which I can not) and even then the chances are slim. Reality is gay men are superficial and revealing status means risking jobs, friendships and community connection. Isolation from being gay, and positive is what many of us face and cope with. It is meanspirited and hurtful to many of us who face this daily to pretend we will find someone. After many years of actively trying to change this, I have given up--I now realize I will die by myself and deal with this illness alone. I have found faith in God and now find revealing this only brings more hatred--ironically most vehemently from gay positive men. They equate faith with religion and despise me for having hope there is salvation and release from this isolation. Confronted with straight and young gay couples only enhances the ostracization and loneliness of being over 50, gay and positive and taking powerful medications with agonizing side effects. All around I see, hear and read what will never be something I can have too. Ads on TV for eHarmony and hook up sites like Gay.com only reinforce the message--if you are positive, without a partner, you will probably stay that way.
Comment by: Matt
Thu., Aug. 26, 2010 at 4:27 pm UTC
Kirk- where in TX do u live?....I am in Dallas
Comment by: Billy
Wed., Aug. 25, 2010 at 2:02 am UTC
Your article was very informative and realistic.
Yes, opposites attract, but my partner and I are both HIV+ and we still hinge on that philosophy.
We enjoy being together and have lots of fun at things most would find boring. So you see, it is that magic that figures in. It is also very hard when one of those mysterious afflection from the HIV/meds comes up and I am glad you mentioned that. There is only vacations from that in our case but we both know there is never a dull moment when the unexpected arrives. When I first became positive I was on the same meds you mentioned early on and those almost killed me and I told my doctor I rather die than go thru the hell that crixivan and zerit did to me. Then Viracept and Truvada came into play. The young population should heed playing around loosely for your body may just not take to the meds till you find some that one can tolerate. We have in our area an epidemic of the virus mainly because of married (str8) men are mixing with boys or men that innocently in most cases are spreading the disease. This worries me for I know what can happen even though modern medicine has made great advancements. I appreciate the fact that you gave a clear vision of what you can or cannot do to be safe and still act on being the sexual being that one is.
Thank you very much for bringing it home in a simple way to understand what you and your partner have experienced. Keep up the good work and thank you for mentioning the Swiss idea which I didn't know about. You might want to write an article of the American in Berlin being cured of a kind of cancer and the stem cell that was given in the bone marrow also cured him of HIV. AMFAR is the organization spear heading this great discovery.
Comment by: Isabella
Fri., Aug. 20, 2010 at 9:31 pm UTC
Que historia tan hermosa!.
Sin proponermelo, el homosexualismo siempre ha estado presente en mi vida pues yo soy una persona con mucho sentido social y humanitario y cuando vivia en mi pais dedicaba tiempo a ayudar a las personas y me llama especial atencion el SIDA por lo que al final terminaba tratando con un buen numero de ellos por ser la poblacion mas afectada.
En una de mis busquedas por Internet sobre el tema, llegue a su web y me gusto mucho el apoyo, esperanza y consuelo que dan todos ustedes a quienes buscan un consejo profesional acertado y en especial llamo mi atencion la pareja que usted y el dr. Bob tienen conformada, pero nunca pense que iba a tener el gusto de leer algo como su entrevista que yo llamaria "extraordinaria", donde usted se muestra no como el "doctor" sino como el ser humano corriente que goza, sufre, ama, tiene temores, angustias, siente, busca y espera...
Dejeme decirle que si yo lo admiraba, ahora encuentro en usted mas valores que antes, que manera tan sencilla y honesta de hablar de su vida personal (y eso no es facil) y que manera tan elegante de enfocar su vida intima, sin caer en la vulgaridad ni en los excesos, pero enseñandonos (y de que manera) como se puede llegar a una situacion de vida y como manejarla.
No se donde ni por que usted aprendio español, pero dejeme decirle en nombre de todos los hispanos que sufren esta enfermedad: "Gracias doctor por hablar nuestro idioma y por ayudar a toda esa gente que tanto lo necesita y que proviene de paises donde no hay la tecnologia ni adelantos sobre este tema como en USA y estoy segura que su bondad va a ser recompensada permitiendole permanecer saludable y al lado de "Bob" por mucho tiempo; usted es un angel y sabe? Que diferente seria el mundo si hubiera muchas mas personas como usted!".
Saludeme al doctor Bob y digale que yo lo considero el hombre mas afortunado por tenerlo a usted a su lado".
Comment by: charles nigel de silva
Fri., Aug. 20, 2010 at 8:07 am UTC
i relate to this in many ways. but where i come from, my partner had to face a lot of rejection from his freinds and had to tobe faced a lot of threats and reputation bashing because heis negative and him getting involved with me been Positive for 16 years. wel they say im gonna die soon so whats the point on getting involvd with me and anycaseyou two cant have sex.........these are comments and worse stuff been said to him.
Comment by: Vik
Fri., Aug. 20, 2010 at 12:13 am UTC
You guys are an inspiration. I hope my positive partner and I find as much happiness as you have found together.
Comment by: John
Thu., Aug. 19, 2010 at 10:00 pm UTC
Loved your interview! At 50, I came out of the closet to my best friend (hetero male w/wife & kids) a couple of weeks ago. Turned out to be a non-issue. Though I think him being Swedish and having a different take on life helped.
I met a guy last November who learned in December that his HIV was "back" (contracted it in 1996; stopped taking meeds in 2000) after developing pneumonia, and learning in January 2010 that he has Burkett's lymphoma.
To learn more about HIV and to finally get myself tested after all these years of occasional hook-ups, I visited the local CARES center. Two great outcomes - negative, and learning about TheBody.com. I read the weekly newsletter to increase my understanding of HIV so I can be of help to my friend.
He's been in the local UCD hospital for all but 17 days since mid-February, finally getting discharged this week to a SNF for rehabilitation. He kept getting infections a couple of days after chemo that necessitated his repeated return to the hospital. In May, he became paralyzed from the waist down, potentially due to a bed sore that wound up infecting an area in/around his tail bone.. The docs cannot find a reason. He says he is starting to feel tingling in his legs. Hopefully rehab @ the SNF will enable him to achieve his goal of walking again by is birthday in December.
Thank you for sharing about your relationship and your contributions to this excellent site.
Comment by: Janet
Thu., Aug. 19, 2010 at 9:51 pm UTC
Dr Steve :
Soy una mujer HIV Negativa
Es usted realmente admirable! Leí la historia y hoy por hoy celebro que se haya encntrado a si mismo y que un gran amor haya tocado su puerta.
Una gran felicitación por su labor.
Debemos de luchar por quitar el estigma que pesa en los portadores de HIV.
Porque antes de todo los pacientes con HIV son seres humanos que sienten y tienen derechos.
Siga así no pare nunca!
Un saludo muy cordial desde México
Comment by: Wifey
Thu., Aug. 19, 2010 at 9:19 pm UTC
Dr. Steve thank you so much for this interview. I too am the negative partner in a magnetic relationship. I do try to go to my partner's appointments. He is the love of my life and I cannot imagine being without him. I try to do all that I can to support and encourage him. I hope we are together until we are old (very).
I was wondering how often you get yourself tested. I was vigilant about getting tested often early in our relationship. Over the years I have been less so.
Comment by: pd
Thu., Aug. 19, 2010 at 7:34 pm UTC
i thouroughly enjoyed the article and gives me hope of finding true love, be it with a positive or negative person. i really should give negs a chance if they would give me a chance (the second part is the hard part). but it sounds like this couple had safe sex before disclosure. how did dr steve deal w learning this after sex albeit safe sex? no problem w that?? hard to believe but i guess dr steve is special. i've had experience where the person freaks out after same incident. i wouldve appreciated further clarification on that.
otherwise so happy for them both. i will keep hoping!!
Comment by: kirk
Thu., Aug. 19, 2010 at 4:55 pm UTC
Thanks for the interview. I recently broke-up with my negative partner over trust issues. My heart is still sad but as I read your story I smiled almost the entire time. I still have hope and while I live my life, single, I celebrate you guys and the love you have. I admire your honesty and your advice.
I am also a PK but I must say you "preached" good news to me today.
Thank you and may you have peace.
Comment by: George
Fri., Aug. 13, 2010 at 6:37 am UTC
Thanks very much for this interview. My partner is negative and a medic and I often wonder how he REALLY feels about his life with me. It's much the same as depicted in this interview, i.e. we have a relationship between two people who really respect each other and we each know that we there is one person in the world whom we can REALLY trust. The fact that we cannot now have the sex that we used to hasn't altered things. (The docs cannot stop my diarhoea and my partner is "top".) In fact, although I miss the sex and we basically have no sex now, the lack of sex has made our relationship stronger and better in that it has caused us to focus on the other ambitions and desires that we have in common. We've achieved so much together and will continue to do so for as long as we are able.
Comment by: boitshoko
Thu., Aug. 12, 2010 at 4:59 am UTC
I relate very much to Dr steves' story, I'm a 23 years young woman living with Hiv, I tested + last year septermber, I have been in a relationship with my fiance for four years now and we would have unprotected when I was diagnosed it was devastating I told my fiance he went for a test but to our surprise that test came negative the Dr told us that he must be one of the individuals who do not have receptors cells and the cannot contract the virus, however we are both scared that after so long what if he has the virus and it cannot be detected other than that we are a happily healthy couple my HI status is never an issue I'm healthy and not yet under treatment, my fiance is very supprotive and carering. What other possible test can we use for my fiance so that we can conclude on the matter?
Comment by: Mico
Wed., Aug. 11, 2010 at 7:04 pm UTC
Thanks for giving this interview. I have been a fan of Dr. Bob for years and enjoy his advice as well as his wit.
I can now imagine you two playing dueling pianos and I do hope you have that Liberace candelabra on each piano!
I'm jealous and that's because I'm human! It's a happy jealous. (If this is possible)
Though, I never knew Dr. Bob is so skinny! I know, God has humor, skinny body, fat .... LOL.
Happy trails to you two!
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