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Marriage and HIV
Oct 15, 2006

My husband and I have been monogomous for 17 years. I recently contracted and have been diagnosed with HIV. I work in a prison and was somehow exposed at work. I never used iv drugs or had a blood transfusion nor have I had a sexual partner other than my husband in 17 years. He tested negative. We are soul mates, and we will not give up. However, we are devastated. I feel so uncomfortable in my own skin, combined with the guilt of occupational exposure and bringing this to our home life that I just can't seem to even get out of the bed. I fear that my husband will be so devastated that he won't care whether he gets it or not because we are an unusual couple that really does care about each other and have been together since I was 17 and he was 20. We had a happy fullfilled life, but he is angry and I am in shock. I have had to pursue help through OSHA in order to get the agency to even acknowledge that there is a problem with educating and protecting county deputies that work in the jail/prisons. My husband thinks that we just need time to adjust to the news. I have never felt alone with my husband, but I do now. I can't help it. He tries really hard to talk, and we do talk, but I am just so numb that I have contracted HIV through my job and that I have to prove it to worker's comp. How do I prove it when I have laid my hands on individuals with urine and feces all over them and vomit, and blood? I took in new intake prisoners and personally laid hands on them, searching and fingerprinting. The truth is that even though we do a medical screen, 80 % say they have not even been exposed to anything. The gloves we have only go to the wrist and I have gotton urine and blood on my arm. When I noticed, I went to the available sink and washed it off with cold water. That is what we had available. If I had actually seen blood or something go into a cut (which I never saw) then I would have reported it to my supervisor and gone to be tested. I have an incident that I did report and that individual will be ordered by the Judge to test--but where do I go from there if the person is negative. This has been a complete disaster, and had I known that I would not be treated the same as any other officer hurt in the line of duty, I would never have taken the job to begin with. The situation I am in with a good marriage is not worth it. I was a public servant for several years and it has destroyed my family. My husband didn't even want me to take this job to begin with. That I do feel guilty about. My question is an attempt to find some kind of hope. Will there ever be a way or a time when we can get back to normal as a couple and get on with our lives because neither one of us have any intention of splitting apart, that would be even worse. We are best friends and that would be out of the question. But we want to do the right thing for each other and attempt to lessen the trauma this has caused for us. Please advise. Thanks, Deputy Jane Doe

Response from Dr. Horwath

You should pursue the issue further at work. You make a very good case for occupational exposure and your employer needs to provide appropriate compensation, including medical care and mental healthcare. You and your husband will need some time to adapt to this difficult situation. But you have been together 17 years and that is the best sign that you have the determination, loyalty, trust and caring needed to weather this storm.

There are good reasons to be hopeful. Clearly you are intelligent and strong. Your husband is a good and devoted friend. Your employer needs to be pushed to do the right thing (even if it means getting some legal help to oush them). I will certainly join you in hoping and praying that you can find the help and strength you need.



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