I am 28. White. A Female. And a former Peace Corps Volunteer. I am HIV Positive. This is my story of how a few months, a few people, and a few events in Zambia changed me and my life forever. This is the story of how I contracted HIV and brought my Peace Corps Journey to a crashing halt... and how I am working now to pick up and put back together the pieces of my life as a newly diagnosed person living with HIV. This was not the journey I had originally planned... my path has traumatically and dramatically changed... but it is the one I am on now. There is no going back. There is only forward. I welcome you to follow along with me as I attempt to explore this new life ahead of me, whether you are someone from the Peace Corps community, or someone living with HIV. I welcome your comments, questions, suggestions, and opinions. Let us go forward together. To start from the beginning, click here He Gave Me More Than A Bracelet.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Serial Killers"

My roommate and I had a conversation after watching the film shared below, Angels in the Dust. There is a part of the film where the orphanage owner gets quite angry and upset about a man named Thabo, who has transmitted HIV to numerous women in the village. He continues to move from one woman to the next, and they are starting to notice this trail of women dying, after they have been with Thabo. The orphanage owner gets quite upset about this and calls Thabo a "Serial Killer".

Anyways, my roommate brought this up to me and said that during this part of the film, he couldn't help thinking about my situation, and wondering if my guy in Zambia "knowingly" passed the virus to me, and how does that make me feel?

The only response that I can give is: I have to admit that there are times when I think about this, and I have to admit the possibility that he knew he had it, and that he lied to me. But, the majority of the time, and the majority of me, still feels and believes that he did not know or do it intentionally. There is only a small percentage of me that feels that maybe he did know. However, at this point in time, I feel that I will never know the true answer to this question. Furthermore, I don't feel that it is productive to dwell on this part of my story. I'll never know. We don't communicate anymore. And if I did know, what difference would it make? Either way, it happened. I still have HIV. My focus now is to accept that and move on with my healing process.

I did explain to my roommate though, that this part of the film did affect me, and not specifically because of my story and situation. It affected me because I lived in Africa, and I witnessed this exact kind of thing happen. I actually met men who had had three successive wives die, and now were on to a fourth wife. Men who the whole village "knew" were sick, but never talked about it. They never said HIV there. They just said, "Oh yes, when that man has a woman, she then gets sick and dies". Just like that, just a fact of life.

I don't know if I would go as far as the orphanage owner to call these men "serial killers". Yes, it makes me angry and sad to know that this happens. It makes me angry that the women, the villages, and the men themselves don't do anything to prevent or stop it. But, I also know that, as an outsider to their culture, their situations, and their relationships, I have no right to judge them and their actions. There is so much more that can add to the complexity of these situations, that we cannot just assume that we understand or can do something to change it.

Please stay tuned for more related to this topic and "HIV Criminalization"...


  1. Just before any readers want to jump on me and criticize me for anything relating to what I said about my guy intentionally or unintentionally giving me HIV:
    I want to clarify that I do not blame him. I take responsibility for my own actions and choices that led to it happening.
    Thanks! ;-)

  2. Jessica,
    I watched 'Angels' last night per your recommendation and I agree that the serial killer part was interesting. I think I see both sides, but I tend to agree that if you know the women you are sleeping with are then all dying, even if you don't fully understand why, you hold some responsibility in their death. I also found it interesting that as upset as Marion was speaking about Thaboo, she showed great care and compassion in getting him to the hospital when he was sick and dying. I thought that was very compassionate of her.
    The most distressing part of that whole film for me was the minister of health's stance on promoting holistic 'remedies' and 'treatments' for HIV instead of ARVs. I'm sure there's a lot more that goes into that then what they showed in this film, such as ARVs being expensive and needing refrigeration that is inaccessible to villagers, however, spreading false information about ways to effectively treat HIV is just as despicable iny mind as spreading the false rumor that sleeping with a virgin is a cure. Just disgusting!

  3. I haven't had a chance to watch Angels yet but the debate of HIV criminalization is interesting to me. There's a lot of evidence that the spread of HIV (particularly in the gay community in America) was due to one man who had hundreds of sexual partners in the U.S. (he was a flight attendant). Because his case was so unique and no one really had a grasp on the extent of HIV and how it was spread it's hard to place the blame fully on him, although he did essentially kill hundreds of men.

    Now that the causes are clear and there is evidence of individuals willfully not informing their partner of their status I'm not sure where I stand on criminalization. I think the HIV+ individual has to take responsibility to inform their partner of their STD. I also think that the community is responsible to step up and prioritize campaigns that focus on informing partners. I also think the partner has a personal responsibility to maintain their own health and find out as much as they can about their partner's status.

    Of course, this is impossible to do 100% of the time, and the question becomes where on this spectrum does criminalization begin? Can we imprison the individual who willfully "kills" his/her partners by not revealing his/her status? Can we fine the community who knows what is happening but ignores it?

    I don't think we have answers to these questions yet but I'm interested to read more about your thoughts on HIV criminalization.

  4. I disagree with you and believe that anyone who is knowingly HIV positive, does not disclose his or her status, and then has unprotected sex with someone else, is indeed perpetuating a moral crime. From having read your story, I don't believe that your partner knew that he was HIV positive at the time, but for the people who do know, there is no excuse, and to spread it is unacceptable! The women who are coerced into sex with these men because they live in a male-dominated culture are nothing less than assault victims, with our without HIV entering into the picture. Add HIV, and they do, indeed, because victims of attempted manslaughter, or some such thing.

  5. I have followed your story from the beginning and I continue to be compelled by your courage,openness, and honesty. Continued good luck in all that you are doing.

  6. Before your partner knew he was HIV+, I can agree that he was "ignorant" to the fact. But what responsibility did he take after knowing. If he continued to have unprotected sex (both vaginally and orally), he takes the other people's choices from them and that's when I would consider your partner a serial killer. In addition to future partner's choices, not informing previous partners of his HIV+ status takes away their right to get early or at least some detection and the correct medical attention.