A Husband's Betrayal: How His Wife Contracted HIV
Until a few years ago, Bridget, a businesswoman who once worked for a powerful computing company, never thought she'd have to ask herself that question.
"This hidden culture of men living a dangerous lie has ruined so many lives," Oprah says. "It's broken up families and put so many women at risk."
In court documents, she's only been known as Bridget B. But today, she's coming forward for the first time to reveal her identity and open up about her ex-husband's dangerous secret.
Bridget was 32 years old when she met John at a conference in Detroit. "Pretty much everybody that met him was just, like, 'Wow, he's got his stuff together,'" Bridget says. "He was charming. He was very thoughtful, as well."
After dating for almost two years, John, a Hollywood executive, and Bridget were married. Bridget remembers their wedding as picture perfect. "My wedding day was a celebration," she says. "We wanted everyone to feel the love that we felt for each other."
After saying "I do," the couple traveled to Bora Bora for a romantic honeymoon. "When you get married, it's kind of like a freeing event, and you can be free with your husband because now you're married," Bridget says. "You can just have mad, crazy sex."
Their idyllic vacation took an unfortunate turn when, on their way back to their California home, John became terribly ill. "He started to get excruciating headaches. He could barely stand up," Bridget says. "The temperature spiked to over 103 [degrees], which is close to brain damage levels."
A month later, when Bridget was returning home from a business trip, she says she also became very sick. She decided to visit John's doctor to get a physical, and she says she asked to be tested for anything and everything. "[The doctor] said, 'Even HIV?'" she says. "And I said, 'I asked you to test me for everything.'"
John went in to get tested, and when his results also came back positive, Bridget says the doctor told her she had given her husband the disease. Wracked with grief and guilt, Bridget says she was devastated, "Now I had ruined my husband's life," she says. "Not just mine."
After the diagnosis, Bridget says the couple's sex life became nonexistent. "I felt like poison, and there are still times I feel like poison," she says. "I stopped having sex with him."
Then, Bridget says it felt like her life came to a crashing halt. She says she couldn't work, she became depressed and she started to feel physically ill.
Meanwhile, Bridget's family and friends had no idea what she was going through. Bridget says she didn't tell anyone she was HIV positive because she and John agreed to deal with the disease on their own.
Despite an inkling that John was hiding something, Bridget says she never imagined that John was having affairs. "I would have asked him tons and tons of questions if it crossed my mind," she says. "We went to premarital counseling. ... If I would have thought that he was living a double life, that would have been break time."
As the disease progressed and their marriage faltered, Bridget says John began to refuse medication. That's when she realized she was on her own. "At that point, I made the decision to tell my family," she says.
When Bridget told her older brother, Lee, about her diagnosis, Lee had specific instructions for his sister. "I told him what was going on, and he was like, 'Bridget, as soon as you get off the phone, I want you to ask him this question,'" she says. "'You ask him, "How many men have you had sex with?" Not "if you've had sex with men." [Not] "Have you ever thought about having sex with men?" Ask him how many men [he] had sex with.'"
Bridget followed her brother's advice and got up the nerve to ask her husband this question. To her surprise, John told her he'd had sex with two men. "I said: 'Oh really. Now when were you going to tell me that?'" Bridget says. "'Did you have a relationship with them?' And he [said he] had a relationship with them."
"I had gotten in there to find my banking," she says. But, when Bridget went into the computer's history, she found more than she expected. "There were these men-looking-for-men websites," she says. "I went and clicked on the websites, and I was speechless. ... Then, we went into the cache file and found all of these emails. They would blow your mind if you saw them."
"Well, I did see them," Oprah says. "I read just a few of those emails, and I've go to tell you, that is some vile stuff that was going on there."
Without going into too much detail, Bridget describes some of what she read. "It started five months after we were married," she says. "[He was] looking for other men with HIV who were married to have sex with. ... I was numb. I was stunned."
About a month and a half after finding the emails, Bridget says she finally confronted John after he called her an ugly word. "My head started spinning," she says. "I said, 'Listen, I know all about you.' I started talking about some of the things that were in the emails, and he sat up."
Then, Bridget says she told John he needed to be out of the house by the end of the week...and he was.
Oprah: You look at people like Magic Johnson, and you realize that you can live a healthy, happy, long life.
Bridget: Let me stop you here. Magic Johnson does not have the same life that an average person [with] the disease. ... Magic Johnson can buy any doctor, any medication in the world. He has people who cook for him. He has people who clean for him.
Oprah: Okay, well, let's look at somebody other than Magic Johnson. Look at the thousands and thousands and thousands of people around the world who have been diagnosed with this disease who don't have chefs to cook for them, who don't have access to the finest doctors, but who have created a life that has allowed them to live well, live happy, live functioning lives.
Bridget: But let's really look at them. Let's look at the fact that the medication that they have to take has not been tested for long-term use. ... I can't go to the doctor once a year like everybody else. I go way more than I want to be there. But, yes, people can live with it, but it's not simple like everybody says.
Oprah: I think this is really good what you're saying there because I think that the feeling in the public from people who don't have it or don't have relatives or friends who have it is that you just take your little cocktail, you take your antiretrovirals. So how are you feeling today?
Bridget: Right now you got me hot. Pissed off. But I'm doing well. It's a new normal. I can't do nearly the things that I used to be able to do. I don't have the energy and the endurance that I used to have.
Oprah: I stand corrected, and I honor the correction because I think that I and so many other people look at Magic Johnson as the poster child for survival, and I think that what you've said is absolutely spot-on correct. The fact that he has access to the best of everything does make a world of difference. I really appreciate you bringing that to our attention.
Why did Bridget decide to speak publicly for the first time about this private battle? She says she hopes her story will serve as a warning and a source of strength for other women.
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"On many levels, it took away my humanity. It took away everything that I had, and no woman should have to deal with that," she says. "No woman should have to lose that much because a man decides that he's going to lie."
The couple is expecting a baby girl in January 2011, a child Bridget says they conceived the old-fashioned way.
To protect her unborn child from HIV, Bridget says she's taking medication designed for expectant mothers like herself. "It gives the baby less than 1 percent of getting the disease, because I really did not want my child to have this disease. It's horrible to have to live with," she says. "Hopefully our little girl won't have HIV."
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