DEAR ABBY: My friend "Camilla" recently learned that she is HIV positive. She became aware of it through a blood test, as she is pregnant. The baby's father has been tested and he was negative. Her future health is of no concern because the situation is under control. Camilla hasn't been unfaithful, and it is clear she has been HIV positive for some time.
My issue is, she refuses to contact her previous lover about her condition, even though she likely got it from him. Her ex may have no idea that he is positive and may not find out until it is too late.
Abby, I understand her concern and embarrassment, but I think her ex deserves to know. Should I contact him anonymously? I know his name and could find his contact information. I feel strongly that he should know, so he can be tested and go on medication. I would, of course, be doing this behind my friend's back. -- CONFLICTED IN THE USA
DEAR CONFLICTED: I took your question to Ged Kenslea, director of communications for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and this is his response:
"At the time of her diagnosis, Camilla should have been urged to contact her previous partners. It's standard procedure, and not something that a health care worker would just 'skip' doing. As well-meaning as the writer is to want to inform Camilla's previous lover about her condition, it's not appropriate on an individual level to interfere in this situation. There are confidentiality as well as safety issues involved that could bring hurt feelings, harm and possible legal liability to those involved in the disclosure.
"A better option might be to contact the county health department where the individual resides to see if it has the capacity to contact the individual, let that person know there may be a health issue he or she could be facing and urge him/her to get tested and linked to care, if necessary -- all without disclosing who contacted the county with that information."