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Posted by: LONEWOLF | 2007/06/13

FRANK QUESTIONS FOR EXPERT

Dear Expert and friends. I thought about this for a long time, and considered and tried many options. What I am writing is my personal observations and views and I do not expect anyone to agree. Some things might sound bitter, but I have no better way to convey my feelings. Also, I believe that to assign blame, serves no purpose. As you are aware I have been living with HIV infection for many years. I am quite healthy, although I have been on ATR’s for about two years. I live such a normal life that very few would ever suspect my positive status. I am gainfully employed, am an active member of my Church, look after the affairs of an elderly parent, and am involved in most activities I wish to be involved in. It is important to understand that no two persons deal with this in the same manner. Yet, despite my best efforts to deal with my infection in a mature and responsible manner, a never ending fight against depression and suicidal/negative thoughts, striving to be accommodating to others, I am alone.

Since my diagnosis, I have been involved three times. The first two lovers were both HIV positive when our relationships started and meanwhile passed on. I had to support them emotionally and otherwise to a large extent, and received virtually no support in return, and I dealt with it. Both their families also broke ties with me. A few months ago after being single for some years, I became involved again, this time with a guy that is not infected and who seemed genuinely sincere. We were both in the clear about the limitations, precautions, dangers and possible consequences of our relationship. I became deeply involved with him and trusted him without question, only to be rudely disappointed once he suddenly disappeared. When I finally got hold of him, I got no clarity on the sudden change in attitude, although I got the assurance that I did not infect him. The only logical deduction I could make was that he could not deal with it and took the easy way out. In the meantime I had to make peace with his betrayal and move on.

To understand the position that I, and I suppose many others are in, is no easy feat for a person not infected, however sincere their intentions and attempts might be. To really understand one has to literally walk in the infected person’s shoes for a while. It takes a tremendous amount of trust and devotion to start a relationship. Most people in my experience are sympathetic and I appreciate that, yet they do not always know how to deal with it, despite laudable attempts. NOT THEIR FAULT. My personal situation is further complicated by my history of early childhood sexual abuse by a close family member and another. That in it self severely damages trust in fellow humans. I fully understand that one is only a victim in as much as one allows oneself to be one, and I am dealing with that part of my past through ongoing therapy. In reality however, it never goes away and creeps up on you when least expected; especially if you have to deal with it on your own. I forgave them without confrontation and pray for them. Confrontation is out of the question for a number legal and emotional reasons. I discussed it at length with my therapist, a lawyer and a member of the clergy.

I have some support from a few friends and relatives, yet that support is not always readily forthcoming and sufficient, as they simply do not know how to deal with it. They too have their own lives and problems to deal with and I cannot expect them to be there at all times. Once again, I do not wish to assign blame. I also get the impression that the perception exists that once an individual is infected; he/she is seen as a “different type” of person and that it is the end of that individual’s sex life. Wrong. People seem to think that you can switch off your feelings and needs at will. No matter what people say and do, YOU ARE TREATED DIFFERENTLY. Make no mistake, it is very easy to conceal the truth and get a sexual partner. I am sorry to say it, but I suspect there is a much more of that happening than we want to know of. In my mind that is not only immoral, but also criminal. To have an honest relationship with a person that is not infected can also be very demanding and emotionally draining for both. Those of us not infected sometimes do not grasp the feelings, worries and emotions of the infected, however sincere their intensions might be. It is a fact that has to be accepted, and there is no way out. I tried out various support groups, yet most consists largely of straight people, and I do not feel comfortable there.

My questions are simple, yet I suspect answers will not be that easy to give.
Firstly, where do I, who have the will to live and fight, meet similar people? I have done a lot of soul searching, and although I am the first to say I am not perfect in any way, I cannot seem to pinpoint the problem. I have such a wealth of experience to share, support and love to offer, but there is no one. Do I look in the wrong places? Do I try too hard? Am I insincere? Do I expect too much? I know the Triangle Project is an option, but they are unfortunately way out of reach due to their location.
Secondly, if I decide AND get the courage together to start a support group specifically aimed at HIV infected GAY persons, where do I start? Maybe reaching out to others in similar situations is the solution?

My post is rather longwinded, but I need to get this off my chest. I am also sorry to add that in my experience many in the gay community have little sympathy for the likes of me. (My opinion again). There must be sincere people out there, but where are they and why are they so difficult to find? Loneliness is no person’s friend. I also found that it sometimes more important to share life’s little triumphs, than it is to have shoulder to cry on. Like sharing my little triumph in being sober for 4 years last Thursday. No one close to me even remembered.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageGay, lesbian and bisexual expert

Warm greetings to you LoneWolf and thanks for your very personal and intimate post. You've previously earned respect from several people here, myself included, and thank you for making us all more aware of some of the complex issues experienced by people in your situation. While loneliness is an issue for countless people - both straight and gay, HIV negative and HIV positive - it is a reality that many gay people feel particularly isolated and lonely. And possibly more so if one is HIV positive. I'm not sure whether this is a reflection on us gay people or society in general.

Certainly many gay people can be very superficial in the way we "determine" each others' relative "value". Many of us merely look at issues such as appearance (bodiliness, brand names, the cars we drive), age and social status and often "assess" each other only as sexual beings. Often there's too little value attributed to qualities such as integrity, values, experience, compassion and the ability to give and receive love.

I wish I had the answers LoneWolf. I'm chuffed that you're in long-term counselling and that you seem to lead a full and meaningful life, and I hope there's plenty of opportunity for you to nurture yourself. Don't look to others to give you meaning in your life. Your comment that no one around you remembered the 4th anniversary of your sobriety is very powerful but it shouldn't negate your own sense of pride and accomplishment.

Starting a support group would be great (we are in dire need of such groups) but I'd advise against it if, on some level, you're hoping to meet a special partner through the group. Also, it involves considerable work. How about taking an easier and more manageable route - start a small supper club with three or four friends, and work on developing your current friendships further. With time the group could agree to introduce new people. Keep it small and informal, with an emphasis on spending quality time with friends.

A while ago Ferny very kindly wrote an article for our forum, and I'm inviting you to do the same. Maybe gay people should be sensitised to the experiences of gay men living with HIV - your story could help change people's attitudes. Think about it LoneWolf and let me know.

A very warm hug for you and I hope you have a good weekend.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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Our users say:
Posted by: LONEWOLF | 2007/06/18

Thanks Expert for the answer. The fact that so few responded to my post just strengthen my views (as you pointed out) on the unfortunate superficiality of so many in our community. Your views on a staring a support group is also welcome. I did not think of it in the way you highlighted it, and will take it to heart. Can you point me to the article that Fernie wrote? Keep well.

Reply to LONEWOLF
Posted by: LONEWOLF | 2007/06/13

Hi Max. Thank you for your insight and kind words. There are not many like you and I hope all the best for you. Your answer really touched me and give me some hope for the future. to go it alone, is not the way to do it.

Reply to LONEWOLF
Posted by: Max | 2007/06/13

HI Lonewolf,

Thank you for opening up your heart and telling it like it is. I am not HIV positive, but I had a relationship with a guy who was positive about 10 years ago. I was only 19 and he was my first real boyfriend.
The relationship didn't last more than a few months, but he really touched my life. I had never before met anyone who had as much courage and the will to live than him. Unfortunately, my own fears got the better of me and I decided to end the relationship abruptly.
My main reason for ending the relationship was because I couldn't handle his HIV status. Primarily because I didn't know much about it, and because I was scared. He was 21 when he got infected, and had to grow up very quickly.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I ended the relationship because I couldn't imagine having to stand by and watch the person I love die. He was very healthy, his viral load was undetectable and he wasn't even using ARV's.
Today, after many years, I still think about him, wondering what it would've been like to still be with him. And I feel ashamed that I abandoned him when he needed someone to love the most.
It's like you said, LoneWolf, somebody who's negative cannot even begin to fathom what it's like to be positive. Ending my relationship was probably one of the most difficult things I've ever done. But I thought that it was the right thing to do, before my love for him grew too strong.
It's a lousy excuse, I know. I acted like any young, inexperienced and scared person would. I honestly wasn't too phased about getting infected, but I was terrified of watching him die. So, maybe your previous boyfriend felt the same?
My message to R: I don't know if you're still ok, I haven't seen you in years, but know this: I will never forget you! I'm sorry that I abandoned you! I will never forget your positive attitude, your will to live. God bless
To Lonewolf, I am sorry that people out there would classify HIV positive people as "NO-GO areas", rather than getting to know them for who they are, real people with emotions and feelings and needs, just like anyone else. My only regret is that I did the same thing. I would like to offer my apologies to you, Lonewolf. I know I cannot speak on behalf of anyone, but I would like to say that I'm sorry for the way negative people are treating positive people. Know that if I could go back in time, I would've done things very differently.
People need to be educated, not only on HIV\AIDS, but on reaching out to others, regardless of HIV status, sexual orientation or race. Today, for the first time in many, many years, I'm ashamed to be part of the gay community that chooses to categorize, rather than empathize.

Reply to Max

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