At what point i nthe relationship should I tell them? (DISCLOSURE 2006)
Dec 14, 2006
My mom was in a tragic nurse accident and as a result I've had HIV ever since I was born. I'm 16 now and my viral load is zero, so I would have to say that I"m doing pretty well for myself. My concern right now is dating. Surprising as it may seem, I'm not really interested in going very far with a girlfriend. I plan on staying a virgin til i'm married, if I even have sex at all. What I'm concerned with is just keeping a relationship with a girlfriend. You know, the typical high school relationship. I was wondering at what point should I tell the other person? I would like to tell them before we start going out, just to get it out of the way, but if you tell it to the wrong person then the chances of getting them are zero. And if i wait until further on in the relationship then it would come across as one of those things that you should've told them to begin with. If I were older i could accept the answer that if they don't like you with the desiese then they just aren't worth it, but at this age (15 and 16) ignorance is kind expected. I think the main worry is kissing. I know that it can't be transferred through it, but its a real common myth that it can, and if i tell them that it can't it just makes me seem like i'm just saying that so they'll go out with me (which I am but still). Any advice? Gracias
-Mr. Bass Player
Response from Dr. Frascino
Hey there Mr. Bass Player,
"I think the main worry is kissing. I know that it can't be transferred through it, but it's a real common myth that it can . . . ." This myth is not only prevalent among uninformed teenagers, it's alarmingly common in adults who definitely should know better as well! Want to know how common? One recent study found 37% of Americans think (wrongly!) they can get HIV from kissing!!!! Equally, if not more amazing, 16% believe toilet seats can spread the virus!!!! This degree of ignorance is shocking, considering we are 25 years into the pandemic!
The decision of when to disclose is never an easy one for any of us "virally enhanced" folks. Personally speaking I'd suggest the sooner the better in most instances. If someone refuses to go out with you because of that, just remember they are rejecting the virus, not you! I'll reprint some posts from the archives below that deal with disclosure issues. I also have a more radical idea. Your mom is a nurse with HIV. Why not have her contact your school and establish some HIV/AIDS health education seminars?!? An even more radical idea is to have you join her. Broadcast your HIV status as part of an HIV/AIDS awareness program. This has been done in other parts of the country and, although scary at first, what many have found is that it's very empowering. In fact, it may make you a local hero with coverage in local newspapers, on TV shows, in magazines, etc. There is a real thirst (and need) for honest HIV/AIDS education in our schools, churches and community organizations. By coming forward with your story, you won't have to worry about when to disclose or how another person might respond. The information will already be out there and you may well find your bravery in confronting HIV/AIDS not only fills your dance card for dates, but that cheerleaders will be chasing you, a guy with courage and compassion, rather than the dumb jocks.
Disclosure & Casual Sex Aug 12, 2006
I work at an ASO. A few co-workers and I were discussing what the best advice to give is in the following situation: someone who is HIV+, meets someone on the internet or at a bar, it will clearly be a one time hook up, how do they tell them they are positive? Obviously, we stress avoiding these sorts of encounters but we all know people will do what they do. Any suggestions on ways to do it with minimal backlash?
Thanks in advance. Love your forums!
Response from Dr. Frascino
Disclosure is never easy and the decision how and when to reveal one's HIV status is different for every individual person and every individual situation. The general rule is the longer one waits to disclose his or her status, the harder it becomes. Another general rule is that it's best to disclose before having sex. In fact, depending on where one lives, it may even be illegal not to disclose before sex! As for the "one time hookup", how do you know in advance it will only be a one-time thing? What if you really click or if the sex is so cosmically fabulous, you want a repeat performance? The ultimate bottom line, if you conveniently forget to disclose, is that it is your personal responsibility to ensure that you have safer sex.
I'll repost some questions and my response form the archives that discuss disclosure issues.
What a way to disclose.
Oct 24, 2005
I have known of my HIV status for about four years now, however I sometime have this issue of disclosing to my patners at the right time. Sometimes I feel I disclose to early and sometime I feel I disclose too late. On October17, 2005 my current boyfriend and I had intercours and the condom broke. As he got up he annouced the news of " the condom broke" and he thought nothing of it. I immediately felt scared to the point that I cried. I notice on the bed sheets there were blood ( just slight but it was blood). I went to work and thought about what should I do. I made a few calls and before you know it we were on our way to the ER for PEP perscription. On the way there I had to disclose to him that he has been exposed to the virus and we are on our way for you some help. My question is, what is his chances of contracting the disease and how can I keep this man in my life, I love him so much and I don't want to lose him. Oh we have been together for about a month in a half now.
Response from Dr. Frascino
When to disclose is a question many of us wrestle with on a continual basis. I'll repost below some responses from the archives that address this topic.
Regarding your questions of the risk of acquiring HIV from the broken-condom experience, you did not mention if your partner was insertive (top) or receptive (bottom). So I'll give you the estimated risk statistics for both. The estimated per-episode risk for acquisition of HIV from unprotected (including broken condom) insertive anal intercourse is 6.5 per 10,000 exposures to an infected source. This estimated risk increases to 50 per 10,000 exposures for receptive unprotected anal sex with a positive partner. These risks would decrease if PEP is taken.
How can you keep this man in your life? Communication is key. Why not show him this post? Your concern and compassion for him are clearly evident in your comments.
I wish you both good luck.
Feel Really Bad Jul 12, 2005
I am an HIV poz male of five years, I try to make sure I have safe sex for the most part. I placed an ad, where it asks you if you are neg or poz, or you do not have to answer, I choose not to answer, and instead have that conversation with a person when sex is a possibility. However, I met this guy, we had dinner and a few glasses of wine, and I spent the night, however during the night he started to have aggressive sex with me that lead to unprotected sex, this is someone I do not know his status. I am a wreck, he stated he had diarrhea for a few days, and a pain in is throat, I was tested two weeks ago, have not had sex with one else, and don't have any std's... I know I have to bring this subject to the table, please help me out..
Response from Dr. Frascino
The subject of when and how to disclose your HIV status is not an easy topic to address, as there is no easy (or correct) answer for everyone's unique situations. Jim, I think you already know what needs to be done, and I would add the sooner the better. I'll post several of my responses from the archives that address the disclosure issue.
When to dislcose Mar 28, 2004
Hi Dr. Bob,
Thanks for your helpful insight for us pozitoids. I have been positive for a little over a year now. I have only dated one guy since and he was also positive. That lasted for about six months as I was not ready emotionally to be involved with someone so soon after my diagnosis. Well here it is a year later and I have met a great guy. We met at a club a few weeks ago. We have not had sex yet. We have however kissed passionately on several occaisions. I am going to be spending the weekend with him next week and it will definitely be time to perform. We have not even broached the subject yet of HIV. I am very interested in this guy and am wondering when I should tell him. I know it will be before we get in the sack. But I am wondering if it would be best at dinner, after dinner...This is the first time I have had to disclose to a guy since my diagnosis, not knowing what his status his, his feelings about HIV etc. (I met the guy I dated immediately after my diagnosis through a positive group). So I am totally new with this disclosure thing. Any insight you could give me about what to say and when to say it would be greatly appreciated. Your experiences as a fellow positoid are refreshing and greatly reasurring.
Response from Dr. Frascino
I recently posed the "when do you tell a potential bed partner you're positive" question to a group of pozitoids. The answers ranged from "pre-smooching" to "pre-heavy petting" to "before the money shot" to "afterward" to "I usually don't even tell 'em my name!" so, you can see, there really was no consensus here whatsoever! As for my personal opinion, I addressed this topic recently in another question, so I'll just re-copy that post and hope it helps your decision process.
help,i feel like a deadly weapon Posted: Mar 18, 2004
several times i foloowed your forums and answers you have given to many other people here. I'm really in crazy mood and i beg you tell me something about the follow situation.I'm very sad because after 1year and a half of non sex (i've been teste poz 1 1/2 year ago) i have found a guy that a really like. I had sex with him and, protected anal sex, but we have kissed (we liked very much to kiss each other) but i was streesed about the risk. Secondly,i let him make me oral sex for 1,2 min. What is worse is that we like each other very much and i think we've just falling in love (i didn't disclosed my status). I have such bad feelings and i'm scared for him. What are the risks for him to become +? i know, there are different opinions but could the kiss be such a risky way and is it so risky that i let him 2 min to provide oral sex, i didn't come into his mouse ( i interupted him because i was scared for him) . Sorry for the language. i'm from an eastern country and i cannot find here too many advices. As you can imagine i care so much about him that i'd rather be dead than to hear that he become infected. Please, i would be grateful if you could find 1 minute to answer me. Kindly yours,
First off I must remind you and our readers that questions like these should be posted to the Safe Sex/HIV prevention Forum, not the Fatigue and Anemia Forum. I'll post this reply in both forums, but folks if you've asked a question here not related to Fatigue and Anemia, I'd strongly suggest you re-post to the correct forum to increase your chances of a reply. Thanks! OK, now back to your question. I'm glad you didn't "come into his mouse" as many mice aren't very happy about getting their tonsils spunked. Sorry I don't mean to make light of your situation. I'll be serious now. To disclose or not to disclose, and exactly when to do so are very difficult questions for us HIV pozitoids. Some folks live by the "don't ask, don't tell" rule, but always play safe. Unfortunately what one person considers "safe," someone else might consider too risky. Some folks prefer the "do ask, do tell" philosophy. Sure, this may result in getting dumped before you get humped, but wouldn't you rather know sooner rather than later that this guy is never going to be your Mr. Right? I know you are from an eastern country, but I thought I would mention that here in the US, 24 states have passed HIV-specific laws regarding disclosure. Merely exposing someone to HIV you don't have to have actually transmitted the virus can land you in jail! So in these states, as long as you know you're HIV-positive, you can be arrested just for having sex and not disclosing. These laws, as you can imagine, are extremely difficult to enforce. OK, regarding the risk of HIV transmission in your particular situation, kissing is not considered a significant risk. Oral sex carries an extremely low risk. Alex, at this point, I would strongly suggest you be honest with your new boyfriend. Waiting longer is not going to make things any less awkward. His response may surprise you, and could range from a caring heart-to-heart discussion to a cranial meltdown and wall-punching. Hopefully, he won't say either "See ya later" or "What's HIV?" also, it's probably worth noting that at this point, you don't know your boyfriend's HIV status either. It's possible he too may be positive. At any rate, if the relationship does end because he can't accept your positive status, please realize the guy is rejecting the virus, not you!
How and when to tell a boyfriend im hiv+ Jan 20, 2005
I have just found out i am hiv+. I am already informing past and present sex partners of this so they can be make sure they are alright. One of these guys I believe could be "the one" ive been looking for. How do I tell someone of my status and how do I deal with being rejected solely on me being hiv+?
Response from Dr. Frascino
Sorry to hear about your recent positive diagnosis. There are no easy answers as far as exactly when and how to disclose your HIV status to your sex partners and to "the one." There are various strategies to consider, some of which I've discussed in the archives. The one strategy that I certainly don't recommend is waiting months and months to break the news. I don't believe good relationships withstand such secrecy. Consequently, I'd advise disclosing all to your honey now. If his/her status is different from yours, there are a variety of common immediate reactions that might ensue, including:
1. a caring heart-to-heart with lots of hugging and perhaps a few tears
2. "What's HIV?" (most likely if you are dating a graduate of an abstinence only sex education program)
3. a cranial meltdown and wall-punching
4. silent shock and awe
5. "See ya later." (most likely if you are dating one of those compassionate conservative Republicans)
Let's hope it's #1, but even if it's #5, just remember they are rejecting the virus, not you! Perhaps some advice form Buddha is in order (and isn't it always?): Asked how he braved his critics' insults and anger, Buddha replied, "If someone offers you a gift and you decline it, to whom does the gift belong?" I'm a bit less contemplative. If someone blows a load of rejection your way because of your HIV status, I say, "Spit, don't swallow." I wonder if I can put all that on a fortune cookie fortune?!?
Good luck! I'm here if you need me.
Disclosure May 23, 2006
I volunteer for a charity in the UK, not HIV/AIDS specific. Recently, a client came in who was HIV positive. She is 20 and has been infected for 2 years. She told me about your site and said that there's recently been posts on your forums about disclosure to parents. I've since read these (it's the "worried father" ones). She has a dilemma about whether or not to disclose her status to her parents. The reason I'm writing to you is that like you, I believe strongly that honesty is always the best policy. However, in this particular case, the ramifications could be serious. My client does not live at home, but suffered horrific physical and mental abuse as a child. The family unit is not strong, but the parents still live together. I really want to give the right advice here. I believe that the client in question requires professional counselling relating to both the child abuse and HIV issues, and have said so - I can only hope she takes this option. When I last saw her, I suggested she get some counselling, and seek further advice there on whether to disclose.
As volunteers, we are told that we should not give advice that may place a client in danger, which sounds straighforward, but I just don't know whether this is a risk in this particular case. Obviously I don't want to give bad advice.
Thank you - you provide a wonderful service and example.
Do you have any advice/experience in this area?
Response from Dr. Frascino
I believe your advice to your client is right on target. Certainly her situation is quite different from the one she read about on this site. I would strongly urge and help facilitate, if possible, counseling for her as a first step. If it will help, you can certainly show her this post or advise her that my recommendation mirrors yours exactly.
For our readers, I'll repost below the "worried father" saga below, including some follow-up stories from the youngster involved and another young man in a similar situation.
Re: Are my kids at risk? May 8, 2006
I just want to say first, you're incredible, second ur right on with this guy. I'm poz and my father jumped up and down on me pretty hard when I told him. I haven't told the rest of my family and have hardly spoken to him since. I don't live at home so prob not quite the same, and I have a great support network anyway, but I wanted to warn "worried dad." As someone in your son's situation (tho older and straight - tho frankly that's irrelevant), if u push your son away now, you will lose him, possibly forever. How do you think your wife and other kids will feel about that?
Take care of yourself Dr Bob - people like this obviously need you!
Response from Dr. Frascino
Thanks for your comments.
Sometimes it seems to me certain people should never have become parents.
I'm pleased to hear you have a great support network. None of us should have to face this challenge alone.
I'll reprint the "worried dad" post below in hopes that it reaches others as well.
Stay well. Let's get through this together, OK? And when it comes time to choose your dad's nursing home, perhaps you'll remember his kind compassionate response to your illness.
Are my kids at risk? May 2, 2006
My son has AIDS. I don't know for how long, he is 19 years old and I found out when I found his medications in his room. I was checking for drugs because hes been acting strange, but sure as anything didnt expect this. I have three younger kids, the youngest is only 9. Should I ask him to move out? Hes gay (I have nothing against this) but hes also a bad influence on his brother and sisters. Now hes AIDS is he dangerous to them? Or me and his mother?
Thank you for any advice.
Response from Dr. Frascino
Hello Worried Father,
You just found out your 19-year-old son has AIDS and your first inclination is to throw him out of the house???? WOW. Apparently your moniker, "Worried Father," applies to being worried about everyone (including yourself), but not your son!!! Shame on you, sir.
Is your gay HIV-positive son a danger to you, your wife or your other children? No. HIV is not transmitted by casual contact. No way. No how.
Perhaps the reason your son has been acting strangely is because he has HIV/AIDS and has tragically felt the need to hide this information from you and the rest of his family. Of course, now that I see what your initial reaction is, I understand his desire to keep his diagnosis secret.
I suggest you, your wife and your son sit down and discuss the situation rationally. Family counseling may be very beneficial. Go with your son to his HIV/AIDS specialist physician visits and talk with his doctor. Get involved with your son's life and help support him through this crisis. Turning your back on him now and throwing him out of the house would be both cruel and immoral.
explanation for worried father May 9, 2006
My father recently wrote to you I'm the "19-year-old-son" of the "worried father." He told me about this site after he'd used it. He was not happy! But thanks for trying. Firstly, I am totally amazed by you and this site. It's helped me so much. Thank you for all your responses to people, you give us hope.
Secondly, like I said, my father has had it out with me, and I just think I should clarify a few things about him, especially after the case worker's response. I know he came over bad, so I totally get your reactions, but honestly, he's not a bad guy. He's just angry because I've gotten myself infected and didn't tell him. So he's been worried, he's not a bad guy. I was in the wrong here. I was just concerned about the consequences, for everyone. My coming out was tough on him, and this is tougher. It's not that he wants to throw me out, it's that it might be better for everyone if I go. He just wants a happy home for his family, and I'm making that damn near impossible. We're a pretty traditional family (apart from me, Republicans (bet you're amazed by that), catholic, we call my dad "sir" you get the picture). I'm amazed he found this site and brought himself to post, may be that's a good start. Really, he's not used to being disobeyed. But he's a good man. Just different to me. That doesn't make me right, or him wrong, just makes us different I guess. The horror on his face at your counseling suggestion would have been funny in a different situation.
I think he needs more time. He's not told my mom or brother and sisters since they're not at risk. I'm going to move out for a bit, let him deal with it first. I may have screwed myself up, but I'm not gonna cause collateral damage.
Jake (guilty son of a worried father)
Response from Dr. Frascino
Thanks for writing in, and I will give "Sir"-Father a bit of credit for at least turning you on to this site. But as for him being such a "good man," nope. I'm not at all convinced. "Sir" just wants a happy home for his family??? Aren't you part of that family??? Your family doesn't sound "traditional;" it sounds dysfunctional and tragic to me. You call your dad "Sir"??? Sounds more like the army than a loving family. Catholic, Republicans yeah, what a shocker! Dad's not used to being disobeyed??? So I suppose that means you're supposed to vote for those morally reprehensible folks occupying the White House and Congress???
And what's this nonsense about "he's not told my mom or brother or sisters . . . ." Why is it up to him? Why don't you tell them? Since when is being honest "collateral damage?"
Jake, you should not feel guilty. I'm sure "Sir-Daddy-Dearest" has never ever made a mistake or had a lapse in judgment or had any type of indiscretion whatsoever, and that's why he can be so self-righteous about you're becoming HIV positive, right? I repeat he should be ashamed of himself.
Jake, you are a much better son to your father than he is a father to you, his son.
1. If you move out, do so because you want to remove yourself from a toxic environment caused by an out-of-touch, self-righteous and self-deluded Daddy Dearest.
2. Tell your mom, brother and sisters what's going on. Better yet, show them these posts.
1. Your father is going to need a lot more than counseling, if he's ever to become a truly "good man."
2. I'm here if you need me, Jake.
You're not alone May 12, 2006
Hi Dr Bob,
Your forum is so incredible. Thank you. So much. I've been positive for 4 years now (I'm 23), and have been reading it pretty regular for the last couple of years. I'm only writing in now because I had virtually the exact same experience with parents as Jake's experiencing right now. Hang in there Jake, whatever you do is going to be tough, but things will get better. They really will. Anyway, Dr Bob, I never told the rest of my family beyond my dad. I just think that you should know why people like me act the way we do (and, from reading Jake's post, he seems pretty much the same).
Thing is, I agree with everything you say in principle, but its easy to stick to principle when nothing's at stake. Reality however is just so different to how I wish it were. I just want to explain why, although I wish with all my heart that your ideas would have worked for me, I think it's just impossible, and from the sound of it, it's gonna be the same for Jake:
1) I grew up with my family. Yes, I know, obvious, but you see, this means it's impossible just to think of that as "toxic." They're what I was always taught was "right." Admittedly, my beliefs and lifestyle are, for whatever reasons, different, but if I didn't tolerate their beliefs, wouldn't that make me just as guilty? So, although I moved out shortly after the fight with my dad, I can't blame him. I still don't. He's my father, I can't switch that off. I was always taught to try to please him, and have always desperately wanted him to like me. I still do. Fighting with him is never going to achieve that. Maybe in time, he'll forgive me.
2) Is it ever right to cause anyone pain? No. Is it even worse to cause pain to those you love? Yes. What would've happen if I told the rest of my family? Simple: there'd have been anger, pain, sadness, fights, all the things my dad strives to avoid. Chaos. How could I in good conscience do that to the people I love? I couldn't. Things would never be the same for them or me. Even now, 4 years on, having done very little, whenever I see my dad (not very often), I see the pain I caused him, and feel the deepest shame. How could I do this to my mom, brothers and sister, who I love more than anything in the world? Also, even if they decided to support me, the outcome would be bad, in fact, possibly worse: that would mean my parents splitting. Not necessarily literally, but it would drive a wedge between them, and that can't be good either for them or my younger siblings, and would be entirely my fault.
3) It's not my job to change my dad. He gave me life, education, food, a home, clothes He's provided for his family and I believe he really does care for us. But how did I repay him? By being gay (tho I refuse to blame myself for that. OK, so I'm sorry I'm not the son he wanted, but that's something I couldn't have stopped). But getting myself infected? That was stupid, and then I gave him lies. Though I never actually lied, just hid the truth. This is why he reacted to my disease with anger and shame.
So you see, I love your philosophy, and your advice, and wish with all my heart that my dad was like you, but he isn't. So personally I didn't dare go charging in like Cheney on a quail hunt. If I'd tried to force my family to change for my own gain, or because of my own beliefs, then I'd be no better than, and in fact, eerily similar to, Dubya and Iraq, (yes I know, completely different scale etc, but as long as the principle's the same, then everything else is just haggling over the price). And that, as you can imagine, is not exactly the lead I want to follow. I dunno if Jake's got the same outlook as me, but it sure sounds like it. Jake, I'll be straight with you, it's a tough ride if you do what I did, but for me, and everyone else, I think it's better than the alternative.
Lastly, I have a great support network, and a wonderful boyfriend. Jake, make sure you develop one (support network, boyfriends are optional but fun!) go to your local ASO, get connected! For me, this means, much as it tears me up, I don't actually need my family to know, and I don't actually need my dad's approval. Sorry this is such a long post, but really, this isn't an easy issue, and there's no easy solution! Take care of yourself Dr Bob, you mean so much to people like me (and presumably Jake!)
Response from Dr. Frascino
Thanks for taking the time to write in and share your story. You are correct in that there are many "Jakes," and, in fact, many "Matts" out there. However, beyond that, I'm afraid we are going to have to agree to disagree on everything else in your post. I'll make just a few points for you (and the other "Jakes" and "Matts") to ponder:
1. "Reality" is just that real! That means you are gay and HIV positive. Hiding that reality, especially from those you love and who love you, doesn't make it any less real.
2. Sexual orientation is not a "lifestyle," despite what you may have been taught. By asking (demanding) your family to accept (or at least acknowledge) your sexual orientation, you are not being intolerant of their sexual orientation. You didn't disown your parents when you realized they were straight, did you?
3. Wanting to please parents is normal. However, if doing so requires "forgiveness" for your innate sexual orientation, that's pure nonsense. Acceptance and forgiveness are two very different concepts. Forgiveness suggests you did something wrong. Being born gay is not wrong. Fighting with Dad may never change him or get him to like you; however, standing up for who you intrinsically are as a person is critically important for your self esteem.
4. Should you tell the rest of your family? Absolutely. The argument that it would upset Daddy's perfect and artificial world doesn't really make sense. Sure, there will be discomfort and sadness, but there may be other emotions as well, like love, compassion, support, etc. Probably the best way to look at this would be to consider a situation in which your brother or sister was HIV positive and he or she decided not to tell you, because he or she felt it might upset you (or Daddy's parallel universe). Meanwhile our limited time on this planet ticks by and you do nothing to help support your beloved brother or sister through very challenging and frightening times. Is that the kind of "reality" you want to perpetuate?
5. On those rare occasions when you see Daddy-Dearest, it is he who should "feel the deepest shame," not you!
6. I agree it is not your job to change your dad. Neither is it his job to cause you shame. You may not be the son he wanted. But don't forget he's not exactly the dad you would have picked out from the dad-catalogue either!
7. Stop feeling so guilty about becoming HIV positive! There are over 40,000,000 million of us in the same boat. You didn't contract the virus on purpose. It was a mistake.
8. If you "love my philosophy and my advice" and "agree with everything I say in principle," why are you so sure my "ideas won't work" for you? Despite your advice to Jake, I do not believe the path you have chosen to follow is better for you or anyone else than the alternative of being honest. Concealing "reality" from your mom and siblings is not loving them, nor is it protecting them. It's merely playing into your father's toxic pathology. By your own admission, you report "it's been a tough ride," and nothing much has changed for four years! You report you "don't actually need my family to know," but that fact also "tears me up." Why would you want this same scenario for Jake? Matt, I suggest you copy your post and my response and take it to one of the counselors at your local ASO. I'll bet they will agree with my position. I'm delighted you have found a way to cope with toxic Dad by developing a strong support network and finding a wonderful boyfriend. I hope Jake does the same. However, I also hope Jake takes a hard look at the "reality" of your life for the past four years and realizes that the alternative approach is really the way to go.
Matt, you're correct: "this is not an easy issue." However, I really don't think you're making it any easier on yourself (or ultimately anyone else) by playing into your father's intolerance.
Give it some thought, Matt.
I'm always here if you need me.
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