Savage Love: My husband cheated and now is HIV positive. What do I do?

Oct 28, 2015 at 1:00 am

Q: 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 that he was HIV positive. We had both had multiple tests throughout our relationship because of physicals and the process we went through to get pregnant. Both of us were negative then, but only I am now. Needless to say, he was infected as a result of him 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 says there was a brief flirtation but then she became clingy and "crazy," and he did not know how to tell me without compromising our relationship. He blocked her calls and emails. He is undetectable, and we use condoms. He has never tried to not use a condom when we have had sex. 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. We did not mention his status. 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 full truth seems crazy.

—Seeking Truth About This Unpleasant Situation

A: "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," says 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," says Staley. "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 ( fighting these laws," says Staley. "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."

Follow Peter Staley on Twitter @peterstaley and on Facebook at

Q: My boyfriend of two years and I broke up because I found out that he was having sexual relations with anonymous men he contacted through Craigslist. My ex will not admit to being bisexual. He claims that he has these urges only when he smokes marijuana. But through our computer history, I caught him watching gay porn at times when I knew he had not smoked marijuana. I check CL periodically, and he is still posting ads regularly, even though he denies this and insists that he has the situation under control. Disturbingly, he is also dating women. I think this is dangerous because there is such a strong chance that he will give these women an STD, such as AIDS, and destroy both of their lives. Since I am the only person in his life who knows his secret, I feel some sort of responsibility. I am very emotionally troubled by this knowledge and I don't feel right about ignoring this.

—Anxiety Infuses Distressing Situation

A: Your ex is obviously bisexual — or if not, AIDS, then his heteroflexibility is downright acrobatic. But policing your ex's sexual identity, his love life, and his Craigslist presence is not your job. Knocking dicks out of his mouth is not your responsibility, and you are not responsible for alerting other women to the porn, the personal ads, the dicks, and the laughable excuses. (Contrary to an infamous Reddit thread, marijuana does not make men "temporarily gay.")

You could, however, speak to your ex as a friend — a creepy friend who cyberstalks him, but still a friend. You could urge him to accept that, even if he isn't bi, he needs to own up to not being entirely straight, either. If he's going to engage in risky sex practices with men — and you don't know that he's doing that (he could be using condoms correctly and consistently) — he should talk to his doctor about getting on PrEP, aka pre-exposure prophylaxis, aka Truvada. Then, having said your piece, you can butt the fuck out his life with a clear conscience.

On the Lovecast, Dan chats with rival podcaster Debby Herbenick about condoms and PrEP... for ladies:

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