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Grosz, S. (1993). A Phantasy of Infection. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 74:965-974.

(1993). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 74:965-974

A Phantasy of Infection

Stephen Grosz

In this paper I will discuss a phantasy that was brought to light during the psychoanalysis of a man who has been diagnosed as HIV-positive. In particular, I want to concentrate on the difference between this patient's conscious knowledge of his infection and an unconscious phantasy which was reawakened and elaborated in this situation. I will present clinical material to illustrate how this phantasy was lived-out in the transference, and I will try to show its fundamental importance in structuring this patient's experience of his infection.

My starting-point is unexceptional, it is simply that conscious knowledge of the infection is altogether different from the unconscious phantasies which are set in train by being diagnosed as HIV-positive.

The material I will present comes from the first four years of the psychoanalysis of a 33-year-old business man. He is homosexual, and a blood test, three months after he began his analysis, indicated that he is HIV-positive. My plan is to give a brief, and, of course, disguised account of Mr A's history, then I will describe some aspects of his consultation interview and analysis. And then, lastly, I will turn to my topic.

Mr A was born to working-class parents in Scotland. His father and mother are both in their fifties. His father works for a newspaper in the printing department; he has always worked nights (and therefore been at home during the day). Nevertheless, he is described by Mr A as 'unknown'. Mr A's mother worked as a hospital technician before her children were born and then, again, after they left home.

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