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Tiger Woods and HIV/AIDS, Revisited

A Video Blog

By Justin B. Terry-Smith

January 5, 2009

Many people had very strong reactions to the first post I wrote about Tiger Woods, on Dec. 23, 2009. The responses people shared drove me to make another go at this blog entry, so readers and viewers would better understand what I was getting at in the first place.

First let me apologize to all of my readers and watchers for even writing anything about this overly publicized affair. So here we are living in a world of HIV/AIDS and Tiger Woods reportedly has had affairs with around 14 different women.

In my opinion we shouldn't judge Tiger Woods on what he does in his private life as long as he is not hurting anyone or himself.

News reports share that his wife, Elin Nordegren, fears that Woods may have exposed her to HIV/AIDS and other STIs/STDs. Her fear of being exposed to HIV/AIDS and other STIs/STDS has come to the surface because Woods' mistresses claimed that he had unprotected sex with them. Nordegren has moved out and is reportedly ending her marriage; she is also said to want full custody of their children.

So why am I writing this? As an activist and someone who advocates for HIV awareness, I see the HIV story here. Presumably (hopefully!) behind the scenes Woods is getting an HIV test and many other STD tests. Nordegren is upset and has every right to be. Woods' behavior has changed her life and their children's lives forever and Woods put her at risk.

After losing major endorsements and sponsors, Woods has decided to make it easier for all the sponsors to back out by stepping away from golf. While this is potentially a good move, he still has to face reality: His behavior may have put him, his wife and partners at risk. How is it possible today that someone can irresponsibly have unprotected sex in total ignorance of the HIV and STD epidemic? Does Woods think HIV doesn't exist? Does he think he is immune? Clearly our HIV prevention programs have not reached him.

Regardless of his status, Woods could be a powerful HIV advocate. Everyone is fascinated by this story. But are they fascinated because a great sportsman has managed to fall from grace by promising monogamy and then obviously betraying this promise? His story shows how at risk many of us who are in monogamous relationships may be. This story is a powerful example of why routine HIV testing is important. Woods' wife probably did not realize how much at continual risk she was for HIV and other STDs. The most powerful thing in this world is to control life, especially your own. We need to make sure that all people know their HIV status because knowing one's status can be powerful. Tiger Woods can show responsibility by advocating for testing, being tested himself and encouraging others to do likewise. Thank you.

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Justin's HIV Journal


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Justin's HIV Journal

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith, M.P.H., may be one of the most public African Americans living with HIV: He has his own website, and he's even on YouTube. He is a noted HIV and gay civil rights activist and the creator of "Justin's HIV Journal," a popular blog in which he shares his trials and tribulations of living with HIV. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Justin resides in Laurel, Maryland, with his husband, Dr. Philip Terry-Smith, and their son, Lundyn. Presently, Justin is working toward earning his doctorate in public health. He welcomes your questions.
(Photo credit: Don Harris)

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