I am a straight, married, 38-year-old woman. My husband and I have two children. I have been with my husband for 12 years, married for six. Three years after we were married, we found out he was HIV positive. We had both had multiple tests throughout our relationship. Both of us were negative then, but only I am now. Needless to say, he was infected as a result of cheating. We worked through that and remained married. Recently, I saw a message from a woman saying, "Call me or I am calling your wife." I identified myself, and she and I spoke briefly. I asked her how long they were having a relationship, and she told me since January. I did not mention his status. I confronted him, and he claims she is a crazy stalker. He blocked her calls and e-mails. He is undetectable, and we use condoms. In the state where we live, a positive person who does not inform a person of their status before having sex faces up to five years in prison. I have brought this to his attention. He is sticking to his story that he did not have sex with her. I do not believe him. We met with a therapist last week, only for a placement consultation. This is my biggest issue: I don't think we can work through our problems without honesty. I need him to come clean and admit to me — and our therapist — that he had sex with this woman. If he does, I believe the therapist will be legally obligated to report his behavior to the police. I am preparing myself for divorce, something he doesn't know, and while I don't want to have him arrested, I feel we need the therapy in order to respectfully co-parent — and lying to a therapist or omitting the truth seems crazy.
Seeking Truth About This Unpleasant Situation
"Where to start?" asked Peter Staley, the legendary AIDS activist, founding director of the Treatment Action Group, and longtime board member of the American Foundation for AIDS Research. "I'll leave the relationship issues to you, Dan, but isn't the level of distrust here the most toxic part of the story?"
The level of distrust does strike me as toxic — but seeing as your husband cheated, STATUS, and not for the first time, your distrust is understandable. What I don't understand is your desire to see your husband sent to prison. You don't want honesty (he doesn't seem capable of that), you don't want to "work through your problems" (your marriage is over), you just want your soon-to-be ex-husband to rot in jail.
But since you don't want to call the police yourself — you don't want your fingerprints on this — you want to con your husband (with my help!) into telling "the full truth" to a therapist who will have to call the police.
"STATUS really does appear to be plotting her revenge here," said Staley. "Divorce, checking her state's HIV criminalization laws, drawing her husband into making a confession that could land him in prison."
And the instrument of your revenge — laws that require HIV-positive people to disclose to their sex partners — are unjust and unworkable."I stand with every public-health organization, including UNAIDS and the World Health Organization, in abhorring HIV criminalization laws like the one STATUS cites," Staley said . "We already have laws on the books that can adequately deal with someone who knowingly and intentionally transmits HIV to someone else. Adding additional laws around HIV disclosure, especially when no transmission occurs, ends up causing more harm than good. Stigma rises. Fewer people disclose. Jilted partners use the laws to lash out."
That's exactly what you sound like, STATUS: a jilted partner who hopes to use an unjust law to lash out at her soon-to-be ex-husband. And while you have cause to be angry (serial adulterers suck), you don't have grounds to destroy your husband's life. And you can't rationalize your plot based on the "danger" your husband presented to the other woman. Your husband is taking his meds and has an undetectable viral load. That means he's effectively noninfectious. So even if he didn't use condoms with this woman — and you don't even know for sure if he was fucking her (and he'd be a fool to admit to you that he was) — he didn't put her at risk of acquiring HIV.
"There's a great organization called SERO (seroproject.com) fighting these laws," Staley said. "Their website is filled with frightening cases of people with HIV rotting in jail for supposed nondisclosure, even when no transmission occurred. There are no similar convictions for nondisclosure of hepatitis C, HPV, syphilis, herpes, etc., some of which can kill. People with HIV are being singled out by legislatures trying to 'protect' the public from 'AIDS monsters' created by local TV stations looking for ratings."