I begin this blog in attempt to seek solace and some sense of justice from the man who took away the most important part of me, my quality of life.
It was July 2010 and the man whom I thought was my committed long term sexual partner for the past seven years announced to me he had been a sex addict for the past two years. Needless to say, this had come as a shock. Over the years, we had multiple conversations in regard to the importance of being up front and honest about our sexual intentions. It was understood (at least by me) that we were having a monogamous sexual relationship and there was nothing to worry about. Therefore, we did not need to consider safe sexual practices. Unfortunately, the man I trusted was living a lie and had been seeking additional sexual partners on every gay sex site one can imagine.
Approximately six weeks later, Mark became very ill. Because he could not shake the illness, he went to the doctor multiple times for care. It still completely shocks me to this day how the medical community can be so blind as to take note they were treating a 50 plus year old gay man for an unknown illness. Still yet, they asked all the wrong questions and instead of testing him for HIV, they tested him for Lyme's Disease. The staff at Fairview Urgent Care could not have made a bigger mistake. They had diagnosed him with Lyme's Disease and sent him to Faiview University Department of Infectious Disease for further testing. Of course, the medical staff knew exactly what they were dealing with and tested him for HIV infection. The test came back positive.
Over the course of seven years, it was to my understanding that we both were being tested and all results came back negative. I should have asked to see the results because after he received his positive results and informed me, it was not until then he confessed that he had never gone in for testing. I should have asked to see the results with my own eyes. It was too late. The man had already done irreversible damage.
Exactly six weeks later, I became extremely ill for a ten week period. The illness was so violent, I could not get out of bed. My sleeping pattern was nearly to the point of a comatose state. I was sleeping eighteen to twenty two hours each day, only to wake in order to force feed myself or take a cool shower in order to break the extremely high fever and sweats. Unfortunately, I did not have medical insurance and did not have the option to immediately seek medical attention. I pretty much thought I had gotten the same cold Mark had and it would pass just as his did. Unfortunately, that was not the case. As my illness progressed, I soon began to experience full body paralyzation and partial blindness. This was the point at which I decided to go to the emergency room. On the way to the emergency room, Mark finally confessed to me he was HIV positive. I immediately understood what I was dealing with and while receiving medical attention, it was announced to the attending physician. He took my blood and initiated the test.
A few days later, the paralyzation and blindness became more extreme and I was once again admitted to Hennepin County Medical Center for treatment. It was at this time my test results were confirmed. I was in the process of HIV seroconversion. I was experiencing what Mark had gone through a couple months previous. In November 2010, I was officially HIV positive. I was 34 years old and my life was crumbling just as it was beginning. Everything was going so well and I was in such an amazing place when all of a sudden, ten very long weeks literally took everything. I lost everything and it has never come back.
My time with Mark began to become less frequent during the weeks to follow. Initially, we had a very good talk and he expressed so much remorse for his actions and the devastation that was caused due to his sexual addiction problem. He told more lies in order to help himself cope with the guilt. I was told he would stay by my side and support me through whatever medical, monetary and emotional needs I had. I truly thought he was going to a real man and help to take care of what had gone so terribly wrong.
Shortly thereafter, I had decided I would need to do something in order to help get my life back on track. The local school for bartending was holding a special to receive accreditation. The cost was a mere $295.00. They were offering half off the normal cost of tuition and I thought this would be an easy way to make back all that had been lost. So, I decided to call upon Mark for the assistance. Upon doing so, he immediately told me he could not afford to help with the tuition cost. It made me furious to know once again, he lied to me. He really had no intention all along, it was simply his way of coping with the guilt and betrayal he had bestowed upon me. After expressing my rage towards him, he decided it was best to offer the assistance. I decided to decline his offer because I knew deep in my heart, it wasn't coming from a genuine place. As the weeks went by, so too, the communication eventually ceased.
After a cooling off period, I tried to make contact once again because I was having severe denial that Fairview could actually make such a mistake. Mark responded this last time with his medical records. From what I saw, everything was correct. He was misdiagnosed. Although I am sure it would not have really made a difference in regard to my status, I am more than certain I would have been able to catch the infection before it actually seroconverted. I would have been offered a fighting chance. After all, when medical professionals are exposed to HIV, protocol is to give them a course of ARV (anti-retro viral) in order to stop the virus from progressing. I still wonder to this day if they would have properly diagnosed him before my seroconversion, if I would have been able to catch the infection before it took complete control over my immune system. What I do know is my viral load would not have gone off the charts and my T-cells would not have plummeted. I truly feel as though I would have had a chance. This was our last face to face meeting, as Mark had expressed to me that his sexual addiction councilor had stated to him that I was not his responsibility and he need only worry about his health and well being.
I was left feeling hopeless and planning my death. What I knew is I was not going to go out miserable like so many others before me. I started collecting sleeping pills. The good kind. The pills prescribed. I still have the pills. They are hidden away in a special place where only I can get to them. My doctors know my intentions and have expressed that it would be in my best interest to start ARV therapy in order to prolong my life. I do want to start therapy but I don't want to start taking the medication and have to stop because I am no longer eligible to receive insurance. It is important to understand that once an individual begins ARV therapy, they cannot stop. If they do stop treatment, the virus become resistant and the medication will no longer be effective. There are a few different types of ARV treatment available so if the virus does not respond to a specific course, there are other options. If the virus becomes resistant to one course of treatment, there are other treatment options. If I were to start treatment, I want to be able to get the medicine and not have to deal with resistance issues. The reason we have resistant strains being passed on to other people is because (1) HIV positive people are not being sexually responsible and (2) people do not have access to consistent treatment options. There is absolutely nothing morally correct about any of this. I would much rather take my chances and stay off the medication. After all, there are people who were infected when this virus surfaced back in the 80's that are still alive today because they did not take the medications and focused on their own personal health regimen. I would much rather take my chances than have to worry about if and when I am going to be able to get my next prescription of ARV therapy.
I then decided to see if there was any potential recourse for all that had taken place by contacting local attorney's on the internet that specifically advertised HIV cases as being one of their specialties. After speaking to quite a few different firms, I soon realized HIV cases were beyond what they do as legal professionals. There was not one firm who was willing to take my case due to the subject matter. I wrote many letters and made countless telephone calls. Most of the correspondences went unanswered. The very few who did respond, passed me off to another firm who in returned did the same. I was being passed off because I believe the majority of lawyers are only interested in putting money in their pocket. The only Justice they wish to serve is the type that increases their bank roll.
I wasn't looking for money. I was looking for a guarantee of treatment. There were two main pieces I wanted to have considered. First and foremost, did I have any legal recourse against Fairview? Was there any possibility they could be held responsible for not properly diagnosing Mark? At the time, what I understood was Lyme's Disease and HIV are basically the same tests. It is how the test is ordered which determines what they are actually looking for. How is it possible these professionals did not see the potential for HIV? Surely, they have dealt with this in the past, right? A middle aged gay male comes in for treatment because of severe illness and instead of asking about potential risky sexual behavior, they ask if he has been out hiking in the woods? I guess I am confused because it makes zero sense to me. Once I started digging, I came to realize it was Mark and his manipulation whiched caused them to make the wrong decision. I began to remember a short time previous to July 2010, he said to me he had tested positive for Lyme's Disease. Now that I have had the time to think it over, I can see the lie. I am more than certain he knew all along he was HIV positive and never told me. What is the possibility of an individual getting Lyme's Disease on multiple occasions? I'm going to take a lucky guess and say unless you are sleeping with Bambi, your chances are slim to none. Again, this is just my uneducated opinion.
Once being told there was nothing that could be done in regard to holding Fairview responsible, I started looking into what type of recourse I may have with Mark. I was more than sure even if he did not know about his HIV status, he was well aware of his sexual addiction issues for at least two years prior to telling me. Had he been man enough to tell me he was having trouble keeping his penis in his pants, I could have protected myself. By him not telling me and being forthright about his behavior, wasn't he essentially putting my life, health and well-being in jeopardy? Should he not be held responsible for his actions? Essentially, he knew he was putting me and any other sexual partners at risk but continued to act on his addiction. Even if he never had passed HIV to me, isn't it still his responsibility to be honest with his long term sexual partner? Unfortunately, he didn't tell me. He lied. He gave me HIV. I am not interested in money. I just want him to be responsible for my medication if there comes a point in time, such as now, when I cannot afford it. Why should the burden of my treatment be held in the hands of myself or better yet, the American people when this man is the one who put my life in jeopardy? He is responsible. The least he could do is assist in ensuring I am able to receive ARV therapy. The lawyers don't want to take the case. The furthest I got was he does not have enough assets to pursue a lawsuit. The man is an architect for a world wide retail outlet based in the Twin Cities, makes a very good salary and does not have any money to ensure my medical treatment? Personally, I think they were only looking at dollar signs and not at the fact my only concern was to ensure I would be able to receive ARV therapy.
I gave up. There is no hope for the system. The world is corrupt. I get it.
However, it does not take from the fact that I have been in complete mental distress and duress for nearly two years. I cried for the first year, daily, for hours upon hours. I've planned my suicide before getting too sick. The entire experience has completely made me mentally unstable. I destroyed nearly every relationship I had because I just cannot bear having people judge me on my HIV status. For nearly two years, I have been in complete isolation. If it were not for my one and only best friend, I would surely be dead. He has allowed me to live with him free of charge just to make sure I remain safe. Although he does not understand what I am going through, he is supportive. What hurts the most is when he comes to me in tears because he just wants me to get back on my feet again. He doesn't understand this situation has completely destroyed my faith in all humanity. I no longer have the will to go on. So here I sit, a welfare recipient waiting for the day when those pills will need to be swallowed with my first and last glass of gin since being diagnosed with HIV. Until then, I will only leave my house to get groceries and see my psychologist. She seems to think I have an interesting story. This is only one piece of that story.
In closing, you may ask why I chose the title "Mark, My Murderer?" Clearly he has not murdered me, right? Wrong! Mark Donatelle has taken every piece of my being. He has completely ruined my quality of life and eventually, I will die because of him. What I do know is when my T-cells fall below 200, there is more than enough Seroquel to send me into a never ending deep sleep. While Mark continues to live a life that has basically gone unchanged (he is still a sex addict sleeping with men online), aside from having to take one pill per day, I will remain isolated. Waiting in and for the darkness.
One Death Too Many (my identity will be revealed when it comes time to say goodbye).
(If you would like to help me receive any sense of Justice for what as happened, I simply ask that you help share my story with others. If I can at least get my story out to the public, I will know I have not died without having done something meaningful. AND PLEASE, PLEASE ABSTAIN OR PRACTICE SAFE SEX REGARDLESS OF HOW LONG YOU HAVE BEEN WITH YOUR PARTNER!)