"Readers' questions" week continues. Are you ready for this one? (All personal details omitted for privacy.)
I need a little perspective on a situation. My boyfriend just told me he was HIV+. He said he had gotten tested a few months ago and found out, but he didn't know how to tell me. Our sexual behavior was very low risk, so he didn't feel like I was in danger. I got tested the next day and I was negative. I still loved him and thought I could make the situation work.
Over the week I tried to ask him some questions about the situation, but he was very evasive. The more I pondered the situation, the more I realized I didn't have every piece of the puzzle. Yesterday I was at his house, and I decided to snoop around. I know it was wrong, but I wanted to know the truth. I found prescriptions and insurance information dating back several years. He had the disease and knew about it from the day he met me.
I just feel so betrayed and lied to, and hurt. Hurt is an understatement. I still love him, I think. We were building a life together. How wrong were his actions? Are they forgiveable? Can you move on after something like that? If someone you loved did that to you, what are you supposed to do? Thanks for listening.
This is really heavy.
The good news: When you say "Our sexual behavior was very low risk," I presume that means you were either (a) not engaging in intercourse, only performing oral sex, and you were keeping fluids out of your mouth; or (b) always using condoms when you do perform intercourse, regardless of who is "on top." (Sex can sound so unromantic when you write about it in clinical terms.) That tells me he was aware of how it could be spread to you, and was being careful. As long as you use condoms when you do the Big Nasty, and he doesn't have an orgasm in your mouth, you're alright. So that's good. If you continue practicing this safe behavior, I am quite certain you will never get the virus from him.
This Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is really hard to get, despite the hype. Think about it: you can get the flu virus just from touching a door handle, or even breathing someone else's air. But HIV, you can only get it if the HIV+ person actually puts his (or her) fluids into your bloodstream; and in your case, that would be if you had intercourse without a condom. SO DON'T EVER DO THAT. TOP OR BOTTOM, DOESN'T MATTER. EVER. And you should be fine.
Now for the bad news:
By not telling you he was completely lying to you. HIV is, for all practical purposes, a disease that can kill you if you get it. All this business about it being "manageable" is true, if you are lucky enough to be a person who responds to the medication. Unfortunately, if you don't have health insurance, currently there is a waiting list to get the medicine from the government in many cities. Thanks, George Bush. And only about 70% of the people who take the pills are responsive...meaning 30%, the medicine doesn't work well. Which side of that equation would you end up on? No way to know until it's too late.
I say this because, unfortunately, it is still possible to catch HIV from him even if you are being careful. What if you had too much to drink and had sex once without condoms? What if a condom broke?!? It happens...would he have told you then? There are options for you, if you go to your doctor immediately. But then...you wouldn't think about those options, if you didn't know you needed to. It's a very scary "what-if" question.
Don't fool yourself into presuming he didn't tell you because he really cared about you, and didn't want to scare you away, blah blah blah. This has nothing to do with his feelings for you. If he really really cared, he would have told you from the beginning. You must remember: he has always put his own best interest before yours. And I'm sure he'll give you a "I didn't tell you because this is so hard for me" line at some point, but you can't let him say that. If he had told you at the beginning...even near the beginning...then yes, it is your responsibility to be supportive. People who treat HIV+ people like lepers are assholes. But that moment is long gone.
People make mistakes, people make huge mistakes, and they are still just mistakes. Maybe that's what happened here. But then, sometimes people are selfish, terribly horribly selfish. No one can decide what the reason is, except for you.
But don't fool yourself into forgiving him just because you, like everyone on Earth, wants to be in love. Putting someone's life in danger is not "love."
PS: Legally he can get into lots of trouble for this. Lots, and lots of trouble. People go to jail for not telling their HIV status, even if they didn't infect the person they had sex with AND used condoms! Crazy but true. It's no joke, it's not overly-dramatic, it's the truth. He is legally bound to tell you his HIV status.
If I were you, I would make this the first thing I'd mention. Politley, of course.