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Im recently diagnosed HIV . . .
May 21, 2004

I was recently diagnosed as HIV +. Im 99% sure from whom I got it from and this person new their status and did not bother to disclose that information to me but after I told them I just found out Im HIV positive. They admitted they knew prior to having unprotected sex with me and failed to tell me. Ive questioned my local authority and I was advised that if I press charges it will be for assault and they will arrest him. But I have to prove he is HIV + and he knew about it prior to him havig sex wih me if I plan to make a case for felony attempted murder. How do I do that? I want to make him pay. But how do I prove he knew about his status? I have not proof about his admission. My life is ruined and I take a large part of the blame but I dont think I should be the only one to pay for this demise. What to do from here.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

Although there is no doubt that the person who knowingly placed you at risk for acquiring HIV is indeed a scumbag, I agree with your statement, "I take a large part of the blame!!!" Blaming others for our own lapses in judgment is not helpful. One in every 250 Americans is HIV positive; however, only one in 500 knows it! Consequently, whether your scumbag knew or not, the primary responsibility for your staying safe and protecting your health is really yours and yours alone. We must all assume our sexual partners could be HIV positive, and take the appropriate precautions. Even if a partner slapped a lie detector on his Mr. Happy and claimed to be negative, I wouldn't believe him.

When and how to disclose one's status has always been a challenging issue. Now that you are positive, have you decided whether, when, and how to disclose your status to the dreamboat hottie you have lined up for next Saturday night? Will you bring up the subject over dinner with some Beyoncé in the background? Maybe over a light lunch? Some guys insist on telling pre-smooching (before even saliva gets exchanged) while other guys don't even tell tricks their name, let alone their status.

If you play safe, do you even need to tell? Well, legally that depends on where you live. Twenty-four states have passed HIV-specific laws regarding disclosure. The threshold for prosecution in these states is exposing someone else to HIV. You don't have to transmit the virus to land in jail. In these states, as long as you know you have HIV, you can be arrested for having sex and not disclosing, whether you intended to infect someone or not! I believe these laws are misguided. Prosecuting these cases is of course very difficult, and these laws, although on the books, for the most part are not enforced. Here in California, the law has a "specific intent" clause.

So, your final question is "What to do from here?" My advice would be to stop focusing on "him" and refocus on you. HIV is now your reality and your problem. Blaming others and making someone "pay" will not help you cope with your new reality. The scumbag has to live with the reality that he may have been responsible for passing HIV on to someone else. It's a painful realization, and one which, most likely, will cause him considerable guilt and angst. Hopefully, it will also make him reconsider his actions and change his behavior in the future. You need to consult a competent and compassionate HIV specialist. A period of adjustment as you learn to cope with your new reality as an HIV-positive person is to be expected. Hopefully, you will soon realize your life is not "ruined." It's merely changed. I've been positive since January 1991. HIV has not "ruined" my life. It has redirected it, refocused it, and in some indirect ways, improved it. It has afforded me a new appreciation for my existence, however long it lasts.

Write back anytime. We are all in this together, and together we'll see it through, OK?

Dr. Bob



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