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How can I tell?
Apr 25, 2000

Dear Dr. Remien: A few weeks ago I met a guy at a club. We started hanging out, talking and getting to know each other. I asked him if he had any type of sexually transmitted diseases...and at that point he made a joke about having HIV..but then quickly said he didn't and changed the subject. When I told him he looked like someone that I know, he continued to make another joke and say "Who? DMX? Michael Johnson?" This answer further made me scared because this was the second time he was joking about an HIV related subject. He told me that he's not HIV+, but how can I tell for sure? Are there any physical symptoms? He said that he has a skin problem where his black skin turns white because of a loss of melanin...I was wondering if this could have anything to do with HIV. Thank you for your time.

Response from Dr. Remien

You know there's an old saying, "many a truth is told in jest." And many people find it very hard to disclose their HIV+ status. Further, it is also true that some people out-and-out lie about their status. Bottom line is that you CANNOT tell someone's HIV status by looking at them. As far as I know, the skin condition you describe is not a symptom of HIV infection - but again, you CANNOT tell by looking at someone! That is why protecting yourself (and others) is so important. Only with time, and trust, can you believe each other when there are direct discussions and honest disclosure on the topic.


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