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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a 33-year-old HIV-positive man. Last week at my office, I was shocked when two of my co-workers declared that they could tell whether or not people are HIV-positive just by looking at them.

Abby, this is no laughing matter. Please inform your readers that someone can be HIV-positive and appear to be physically healthy. I shared my health status with my office mates, and by doing so, I hope I have changed some minds by shattering that myth. Sign me ... POSITIVE IN D.C.

DEAR POSITIVE: Not everyone would have been so generous or courageous, because there is still a lot of prejudice, ignorance and misunderstanding when it comes to HIV. There is more than one lesson to be learned from your letter.

(1) You CANNOT tell a person's HIV status by his or her appearance.

(2) It is imperative that couples not have unprotected sex unless both partners have been screened for HIV.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 12-year-old girl who is dating a senior boy in high school.

One night, we went to a party and then back to his place. His parents and sister were out of town, and he was really drunk.

As soon as we got to his house, he started drinking again. That led to a big fight. I was literally walking out the door when he grabbed me and told me if I ever leave him, he'll hunt me down and kill me!

Abby, ever since that night, I've been scared of him. Please tell me what to do. -- SCARED IN MAXTON, N.C.

DEAR SCARED: Tell your parents or guardian about the young man's threat. You are too young to deal with this yourself and to be dating a boy that much older than you.

He clearly has problems and not enough supervision -- and the same is true of you.

P.S. Under no circumstances should you be riding in a car with a driver who has been drinking. That, too, could cost you your life.

DEAR ABBY: My sister-in-law, "Barbara," and her family are avid karaoke fans. They've had a machine for 10 years, and every time we go to their home, no matter the occasion, they sing at the drop of a hat.

When relatives visit from out of town -- they sing. They sing at Christmas, birthday parties, wedding receptions -- and the volume is set so high that it's impossible to carry on a conversation. If you leave the room to talk, they'll turn on the intercom so the music is carried throughout the house. It's true they encourage others to join in -- but they never give up the microphone.

Barbara is not the kind of person who takes criticism well. Some members of the family tease her about singing so much, but she doesn't take the hint.

Please help me find a way to convince Barbara that we don't need to be "entertained" all the time. -- TONE DEAF IN INDIANA

DEAR TONE DEAF: That may be impossible. We both know you can't change them. They have show biz in their blood. Wear ear plugs if necessary and be grateful they don't have a cover charge and a two-drink minimum.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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