The revelation of being HIV positive continues to be a discourse fraught with meaning. In Infecting the Treatment: Being an HIV-Positive Analyst, Gilbert Cole offers an intimate and deeply insightful examination of disclosure of his HIV seropositivity on his analytic sense of self and on his clinical work with patients.
Cole begins his journey of discovery by meditating on the meanings that being HIV positive have had for him, and by situating these personal meanings within the multiple meanings of HIV seropositivity generated by our culture, leading to a clinical discussion of the pros and cons of disclosure to one's patients. What begins as a consideration of disclosure of an ostensibly medical fact, opens to an exploration of the broader problematic of disclosure in the context of questions of sameness and difference, of dependence and autonomy, and of the ethical ground of psychoanalytic practice. He illuminates these issues by circling back to his own predicament, which took the form of an apparent conflict between his self-image as a psychoanalytic therapist committed to a psychoanalytic treatment approach and aspects of his self-experience that seemed uncomfortably dissonant with this identity and this commitment. He approached resolution of this conflict when he became able to use his HIV seropositivity as a metaphor for aspects of the treatment process.
Comprising Cole's personal engagement of the issues inherent in being an HIV-positive analyst, his report of clinical work attendant to disclosure of his condition, and a research project compiling the experiences of other HIV-positive analysts, Infecting the Treatment is an intimate and deeply insightful examination of the impact of one analyst's disclosure of HIV seropositivity on his analytic sense of self. With admirable candor and uncommon thoughtfulness, Cole shows how the analyst's disclosure of information of the most meaningful sort may deepen and even transform the therapeutic dialogue.
"Gilbert Cole's Infecting the Treatment is a splendid work, full of virtues that are rarely found singularly let alone in tandem. Cole combines a brilliantly probing intelligence with an elegant, translucent writing style and a passion for exploring issues of genuine consequence. He bravely utilizes his own experiences, yet contextualizes them in so expansive a way as to illuminate a broad set of issues - the nature of identity; the meaning of Otherness; the history, theory, and ethical implications of psychoanalytic culture. Infecting the Treatment will deeply inform specialists but deserves a far wider readership."
- Martin Duberman, Ph.D., Distinquished Professor of History, CUNY
"The conventional reaction to Infecting the Treatment might be to declare this exploration of an HIV-positive analyst's clinical experience as courageous and moving. One could also note the original and important contribution Cole is making to queer theory and to clinical work with gay patients. While these judgments are certainnlt true of this book, it seems equally important to say that this interesting, freshly and vividly written book draws on a number of distinct disciplines to propose innovations in theory and technique that all clinicians can make immediate and good use of. Infecting the Treatment takes the debate about disclosure and analytic subjectivity to a new level and expands our understanding of technique. By exploring the nuances of sameness and difference in shared identities and spoiled identities, Cole shows us the porousness and permeability of all identities, the web of public and private meanings individuals use to negotiate and tell their stories."
- Adrienne Harris, Ph.D., Author, Gender as Soft Assembly (Analytic Press, 2005)
"More than two decades into the AIDS pandemic, Gilbert Cole does what no one has done before. He shows how his life as an analyst living with AIDS has provided a transformative understanding of the psychotherapeutic encounter. With precision and generosity, he brings forth yet another life-altering aspect of the AIDS epidemic. Masterfully addressing the intersections and interrelationships between the personal and the political, Cole evinces uncannily with grounding in, and understanding of, psychoanalytic theory and practice, never ignoring the impact of the social context of the AIDS epidemic. Living with AIDS has clearly changed Gilbert Cole's practice as well as his life; his extraordinary courage and centered-ness allow him to share his insights so penetratingly and so fully. Infecting the Treatment is absolutely essential reading for all those involved in the practice of psychotherapy."
Ana L. Oliviera, Executive Director, Gay Men's Health Crisis, NYC
"What Cole is able to do with his work is impressive. He makes meaning out of the intimate connection between an HIV positive analyst and his patients, he describes how the meaning of his experience differs from patient to patient, yet vitally informs his work regardless, he outlines how differences in the way he discloses information are analyzable and speak to the relational, the political and the ethical domain. His work is an important contribution to the literature of psychoanalysis and sexual orientation. In writing about issues of illness, life and death, intra-group difference among gay men, it foregoes past issues of sexual identity and bravely offers his own experience as valuable data for furthering the relational mission of psychoanalysis."
- Andrew Suth, in Psychologist-Psychoanalyst, 2, 2007
Introduction: A Communication from the Analyst's Dreamlife. Knots of Meaning: The HIV-Positive Psychoanalyst's Subjectivities. The HIV-Positive Analyst: An Anomalous Identity. Disclosure and Contagion. A Duty to Disclose? Other Analyst's Experiences. An Analyst Prepares.