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She Doesn't Know Your Mutual Ex Is Positive. What Would You Do?

January 23, 2017

Months ago, Facebook suggested I might know a previous girlfriend of the ex who gave me HIV.

Years ago, I was the other woman without even knowing it. I learned he left her for me; I felt awkward meeting his family at Thanksgiving because they were heartbroken over the break up from her and her young daughter, who once lived with them. It took awhile for his family to warm up to me. I did not know I had become part of a pattern.

He and I parted ways in May 2006, and I never saw him again.

But, Facebook told me we had a friend in common and maybe we were long-lost friends. I checked her page, and she had two new children, so I wanted to assume she had an HIV test, being pregnant twice since him. However, from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's lack of follow up with me, I assume they do not follow up with straight married women since we're not at risk to spread it.

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I know our ex-boyfriend does NOT have a Facebook account; you can't even Google him and have anything come up. So, if she also tested positive, she would have NO way to contact him to track her disease the way I did.

I toyed with the idea of emailing her for weeks.

Does she have the right to know; is it my right, my duty, to ask or tell her she might have been given HIV? Having had many conversations recently with my six year old about how important it is to "tell the truth," this was in my mind every time I saw her face on my phone or computer. She has the right to know. No one else will ever tell her. It's up to me. If I can blog for strangers, I can definitely email a woman whose bad boyfriend I stole some fifteen years ago.

So, I finally sent her a message. I know us NOT being Facebook friends, she might see this message tomorrow; it might take weeks; she might never see it at all. She might see my face in her inbox and delete my email it without even opening it. She could write back that I stole the love of her life and what a slutty bitch I was. She might say I got what I deserved, and what did I expect?

She wrote back. My message basically said: I'm not sure whether you or your brother kept in touch with him, but he gave another ex and me HIV. If you have not been tested, you should. I just thought you should know because I know he will never tell you.

She apologized for what he had put me through and repeatedly asked whether I was OK, and also my son and his other ex. We IMed each other all night about him, his issues and his amazing family, as well as about how she never looked back once he was with me. We agreed he was not worth the trouble or the time we all wasted on him.

I am so relieved. She has been tested, and she is negative. At least I know she is safe. I knew he would never contact her and give her an FYI, which bothered me. They were together for years. It only takes a minute to drop someone an email to let them know to get tested. I felt obligated to do it for all my exes and now his too.

People have a right to know they are in danger of this symptomless disease you don't know about until it's too late. It is worth an email, no matter how awkward or nervous or afraid you are of the reaction you will receive. It's worth it in the end to have peace of mind that someone else is OK. I never dated her, we were never "friends," but as a fellow woman who knew she might have been exposed, I had to. What would you do?

Send Brooke an email.

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: ann (kenya ) Wed., Feb. 1, 2017 at 8:21 am UTC
I have all along been playing with the idea of contacting his ex who we went to high school together but then again at the back of my mind i know they used to have sex even when we were dating and she had not told her. What keeps me from not emailing her is the fact that maybe i was the side chic and they had something real going on between them........ I have moved on and it has been five years and he still tries to get in touch with me but i don't respond. He ain't worth it
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Comment by: Lisa (Florida) Wed., Feb. 1, 2017 at 3:55 am UTC
You did the right thing. I have actually pondered the same question while I was trying to decide to press charges against my ex. In the meantime about 8 months later his fiancee whom was pregnant with his child (yes he meant to get her pregnant KNOWING he had HIV & did NOT seek medical care even after I found out he gave it to me). She was tested & found out while pregnant. That was my answer to try to press charges against him. However he either never tested knowing he was exposed or did so anonymously before me so there was nothing they could do. Only his fiancee since after I was diagnosed I made him get tested by name. She lied to the detective handling my case saying he had disclosed to her when he didn't. Turns out she found his little black book with about 10 other woman's names in it that he'd slept with. She stayed with him. Her choice.
This is the ONE & ONLY TIME I can say that I believe in criminalization because obviously he's a very mentally unstable person TRYING to transmit by his actions. There was also at least 1 other that got HIV from him. When I spoke to the person in charge of interviews I asked how if his name keeps getting documented as a sexual partner criminal charges cannot be filed by the CDC & of course the individuals he infects have to press charges because of confidentiality. I contacted 2 other men I had been intimate with between my last negative test & my positive test. They were both negative so I know for a fact it was him. Dr's could also tell a new infection by my counts, I also got terribly I'll from my acute serioconverson syndrome.
I've also had an ex b/f whom I disclosed to that was negative tell several other women about my HIV & of course they confronted me. I didn't answer either way of course but did tell them to get tested since his ex wife before me was a herion addict. He still tries to friend me on Facebook & contact me ughh!
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Comment by: Amanda (Boston) Fri., Jan. 27, 2017 at 9:01 am UTC
When I found out I was positive, I knew I had to inform my previous partners since I did not know at that moment since when I was positive. So I decided with a friend the following plan: she called every one of my previous partners and told them that she was calling from an association on behalf of a person with whom they had contact in the past and that had tested positive, and to alert them that they should take the test. Like that, I alerted them without going through the trauma of revealing. At the beginning, I did not feel as comfortable as now with people knowing about my status.
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Comment by: Wish (Canada) Wed., Jan. 25, 2017 at 12:24 am UTC
I believe you did the right thing. I have been struggling with the same thought. I met a man online who I hoped to be with but never got to even touch but he found out he had HIV and I have a friend online who did sleep with him and i forever wonder if I should ask her if she knows he has it. I am no longer friends with him. I know he had not told her when he first found out as I had asked him. I really care about her and I feel I should ask but is it my place to do so? I know I would want to know if it were me.
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Comment by: Ryan Carroll (San Diego,CA) Tue., Jan. 24, 2017 at 3:11 am UTC
That is way cool you did that for her. You such a cool person. I'm glad to know you.
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Voice of ONE


Brooke Davidoff

Brooke Davidoff

Brooke grew up in San Diego, Calif., and from a young age she wanted to change the world with her words. She has been writing poetry since 1992, and majored in journalism in school.

She was diagnosed with AIDS when she was eleven weeks pregnant in her first year of marriage. She is now a single mother living in Long Beach, Calif.


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See Also
Oops, I Outed Myself
Preparing to Tell Others You're HIV Positive
HIV Status Disclosure and Ripping the Band-Aid Off Quickly
TheBody.com's Just Diagnosed Resource Center
Telling Others You're HIV Positive
More Personal Accounts of HIV Disclosure
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