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Michael Shernoff (March 31, 1951-June 17, 2008) was an openly gay psychotherapist who specialized in serving the mental health needs of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people and was author of several influential publications on the topics of HIV/AIDS prevention and the mental health concerns of gay men.


Shernoff was born in Queens, New Yorkmarker, on March 31, 1951. He attended New York Citymarker schools. He graduated from the Harpur Collegemarker at Binghamton Universitymarker and in 1977 received a master’s degree in social work from the School of Social Welfare of the State University of New York at Stony Brookmarker.

As a licensed clinical social worker, he offered outpatient mental health services in Chelseamarker in New York Citymarker. He also taught at Hunter Collegemarker from 1991 to 2001, and from 2002 until his retirement in 2006 he served on the faculty of the Columbia University School of Social Work. From 1997 until 2004 he was the online mental health expert for the HIV/AIDS website

He was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1982, but lived free of AIDS symptoms. At the time of his death from pancreatic cancer in Manhattanmarker in June 2008, his brother Jeffrey Shernoff told The New York Times that he found it ironic that after years of living with HIV infection, "He died of pancreatic cancer, which may not even be related."

Professional contributions

Shernoff was an early volunteer for Gay Men's Health Crisis and became one of the first social workers in the United Statesmarker to address AIDS in a private psychotherapy practice. He wrote many articles and offered training for both mental health professionals and patients on dealing with mental health aspects of gay sexuality and living with HIV and AIDS. In 1985 he and Luis Palacios-Jiménez created the workshop "Hot, Horny and Healthy: Eroticizing Gay Sex" for a Gay Men’s Health Crisis conference. The workshop, intended to teach gay men how to continue to engage in sexual activity without risking HIV transmission, was eventually presented in cities across North America. A pamphlet that he co-authored, When a Friend Has AIDS, was translated into eight languages.

After a partner died from AIDS, Shernoff produced an anthology entitled Gay Widowers: Life after the Death of a Partner that ten years later was described as still being the only book to address the specific challenges of grief for gay men who have lost their partners.



  • Michael Shernoff and William Scott, editors, The Sourcebook on Lesbian/Gay Health Care, published by The National Lesbian/Gay Health Foundation, Washington, D.C., 1988, 425 pages, ISBN 9780962112805
  • Michael Shernoff, editor, Counseling Chemically Dependent People With HIV Illness, published by Harrington Park Press, Binghamton, N.Y., 1992, ISBN 9781560230168
  • Walt Odets and Michael Shernoff, editors, Second Decade of Aids: A Mental Health Practice Handbook, Hatherleigh Press, 1995, 320 pages, ISBN 9781886330009
  • Michael Shernoff, editor, Human Services for Gay People, Taylor & Francis, Inc., 1996, 138 pages, ISBN 9781560247548
  • Michael Shernoff, editor, Gay Widowers: Life after the Death of a Partner, Haworth Press, 1997, 161 pages, ISBN 9781560231059
  • Michael Shernoff, editor, AIDS and Mental Health Practice: Clinical and Policy Issues, Taylor & Francis, Inc., 1999, 381 pages, ISBN 9780789004642
  • Michael Shernoff and Raymond Smith, HIV Treatment: Mental Health Aspects of Antiviral Therapy, published by University of California San Francisco AIDS Health Project, 2000, ISBN 9781879168046
  • Michael Shernoff, Without Condoms: Unprotected Sex, Gay Men and Barebacking, published by Routledge, 2005, 371 pages, ISBN 9780415950244


See also


  1. Michael Shernoff, 57, Gay-Health Therapist, Is Dead, The New York Times, June 21, 2008
  2. Michael Shernoff, MSW, LCSW, ACSW, Diplomate in Clinical Social Work - Michael Shernoff's website, accessed June 22, 2008
  3. Steve Weinstein, Michael Shernoff, Pioneering Gay Psychotherapist Dies,, June 19, 2008
  4. Michael Shertoff, Michael Shernoff Ends Role at The Body's Ask the Experts Forums,, December 2003
  5. When a Friend Has AIDS, by Dixie Beckham, Diego Lopez, Luis Palacios-Jimenez, Vincent Patti and Michael Shernoff (New York: Chelsea Psychotherapy Associates, 1989)

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