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This Positive Life: An Interview With Richard Brodsky

April 1, 2011

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Inspiring stories of people living with HIV.

Welcome to This Positive Life! We have with us Richard Brodsky and his wife, Jodi Brodsky. In 1997, Richard contracted HIV through having unprotected sex in an extramarital affair with another man. Despite his infidelity and diagnosis, he and his loving wife of 30 years, Jodi, stayed together and their relationship persevered. In 2002, the couple was dealt another blow when Richard was diagnosed with brain cancer and was given only two to four years to live. Thankfully he battled back, and the couple talks to us about the importance of love and forgiveness, being in a serosdiscordant relationship, and the foundation they started to support AIDS orphans in Africa.

Olivia Ford: This is Olivia Ford reporting for The Body. Welcome to This Positive Life. Richard, do you want to introduce yourself?

Richard Brodsky: Sure, my name's Richard Brodsky. I'm HIV positive since 1997, a brain cancer survivor since 2002. I'm also a marathon runner.

Olivia Ford: Well, welcome to This Positive Life.

Richard Brodsky: Thank you.

Olivia Ford: Let's start at the very beginning of your personal history with HIV. Can you start by describing how you found out you were HIV positive?

Richard Brodsky: Yeah, it was back in 1997. And I had been involved with some men. I really wasn't that much aware about HIV and AIDS. I didn't even know there was a difference. I thought if a person was relatively healthy, you don't get these diseases. I was really, really grossly uninformed. And one time I was with a guy and he said to me, "You ought to get tested because I'm HIV positive."


Olivia Ford: Was this someone you had been with a number of times?

Richard Brodsky: A couple of times, sure.

Olivia Ford: And you were married at the time as well.

Richard Brodsky: Right. Yeah, it was very difficult because I just really, really loved my wife a lot, and having these bisexual feelings, I guess I wished I could stay faithful, but that wasn't the case back then. Although, I have been faithful to my wife the last eight years.

Olivia Ford: That's wonderful. Were you in several relationships starting from the beginning of your marriage or did that sort of come about later?

Richard Brodsky: No, I was always faithful to my wife. Years ago, when I was in Iran, there were a couple of gay incidents but that was before I was married. I came back to America, and the next thing to do was get married, raise a family, which is what we did. I was a fairly successful architect. I found I was gaining a little bit of weight. I wanted to get back in shape. I was reading some men's magazines. I guess the male body, it's attractive. So is the female body. And that's sort of how it started.

Olivia Ford: How old were you then in '97?

Richard Brodsky: In '97, well, I'm 58 now, so I think I was about like 46, something like that.

Olivia Ford: So this gentleman you were with said, "You better get tested because I'm positive." Did you go and get tested immediately or was it a while before you


Richard Brodsky: I got tested immediately. I don't remember if I did or not and the doctor said, "No, you won't have any results for a three-month period."

Olivia Ford: So you mean three months after exposure you couldn't get tested.

Richard Brodsky: Right.

"The three choices were: We could get divorced, she could get everything, I could take a small studio in the city and continue my practice; we could remain married, which was what I was really hoping we'd be able to do; or I could kill myself for bringing so much shame to my family."

-- Richard Brodsky

Olivia Ford: So then did you wait for the three-month window period and then go?

Richard Brodsky: Right.

Olivia Ford: So what was the circumstance of getting your result?

Richard Brodsky: I went to the doctor and he sort of said, "Well, these tests, there's a possibility that you're HIV positive. There's a probability," and he kept on saying it like that, and gradually he said, "Looks like it's 99.4 percent certain that you are." I started crying, "I have a wife. I love my wife." He said something like, "Well, maybe you don't have to tell her because there's another test that will confirm it 100 percent." I said, "No, you don't understand. I have to tell my wife."

And I wasn't sure. The way I saw it, there were three choices. Actually there were four -- she might kill me on the spot. But the three choices were: We could get divorced, she could get everything, I could take a small studio in the city and continue my practice; we could remain married, which was what I was really hoping we'd be able to do; or I could kill myself for bringing so much shame to my family. But I have three daughters. I don't think I could have really done that anyhow.

I was very fortunate because Jodi, she kind of like just immediately said, "No, we're going to work this out." It was a struggle at the beginning because we didn't know too much about it and all I knew was that HIV, you get it. I found out a little about it at the time, "It's like a death sentence." That was back in '97. But they were just coming out with the cocktail. And I was even that much aware [about treatment], but Jodi did a lot of research and she found that out.

Olivia Ford: So now, when you told her, it sounds like very soon after your diagnosis.

Richard Brodsky: Right.

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This article was provided by TheBody.
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