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by Abigail Van Buren

Host's Christmas Cheer Is Not Spread Out to All

DEAR ABBY: Every year, I throw a Christmas party for 25 or 30 people. What is the polite response when I'm asked by a prior attendee, whom I do not wish to invite, if I am throwing a party again this year?

This happened three times last year, and I don't know how to handle the question. I could never respond with a blunt, "Yes, but you're not invited." Nor would I be comfortable with the lie of "No." So I usually stammer some vague nonanswer about not even having my Christmas cards out yet.

My honest response would be, "I am -- but regrettably, I just can't invite everyone I would like to. Let's plan to get together after the holidays."

I don't want to cause the hurt feelings that being excluded would create, especially when it is someone whose company I enjoy. At the same time, though, I am blessed with a large circle of friends and acquaintances, and can invite only so many people.

How would you or your readers respond to a question like this that probably shouldn't have been asked in the first place? Or am I just being overly sensitive? -- POLITE HOST, SEATTLE

DEAR POLITE: You are not being overly sensitive -- you are simply a host who has trouble saying no. Your honest response is the best way to explain the situation.

DEAR ABBY: You recently printed a letter from a woman who is involved with an HIV-positive man. I tested positive seven years ago and am still as healthy as ever. To others in her situation I would say: Go ahead and live your lives. It would be sad to break off a promising relationship for fear of an illness that may never happen. However, at the same time, be wise and make a plan for what you'll do if he does get sick. This same advice applies to any mature couple.

I'd like to offer a list of suggestions that might be valuable to anyone who tests HIV-positive:

1. Make sure you have good health insurance. Get medical exams several times a year from a doctor who has experience with HIV. This is important so that potential infections can be nipped in the bud.

2. Reduce the stress in your life. Stress can weaken the immune system.

3. Don't waste energy feeling ashamed about HIV. It's just a particle of protein. Let family and friends know, by your example, that you're the same person you always were.

4. Learn as much as you can about HIV treatments. Many people with HIV never develop AIDS, and new medicines are helping people with AIDS live longer and better lives. You are your own best advocate.

5. Expect to experience periods of fear, sadness and anger. Talk about your feelings with someone you trust, and don't be afraid to ask for help. A support group of other people in your situation can be an excellent way to deal with feelings and share information. -- LIVING WELL IN KENNEBUNK, MAINE

DEAR LIVING WELL: I'm sure that many people will benefit from your sensible suggestions. Thank you for a helpful letter.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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