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December 4, 2012

When revealing HIV status turns deadly

Cicely Bolden, 28, was a mother, a twin sister, a daughter and a friend to many in Dallas.

"She was born one minute after me, so I grew up protecting her. We had this bond. Her life was my life," her twin, Chelsea Bolden, told The Root. "My sister wasn't perfect -- she liked the drama -- but she was a good person and a really good mother."

Cicely Bolden also happened to be HIV-positive, diagnosed almost two years ago. But her life didn't end because of health issues related to AIDS. On Sept. 6, her married boyfriend, Larry Dunn Jr., stabbed her to death, claiming that she had sex with him and didn't disclose her HIV status until after they were finished. Her two children, ages 7 and 8, discovered her body lying on her bedroom floor.

In a recorded police interview, Dunn stated that her alleged deception made him so angry that he ran into the kitchen, grabbed a knife and stabbed her. Dunn, who is currently being held on $500,000 bond, told detectives, "She killed me, so I killed her."

Sadly, no doubt many of you are thinking -- thanks to some salacious headlines and the brutal debate being waged online -- either Bolden deserved it or, while you don't condone what Dunn did, you understand. But before we rush to judgment and blame the victim, let's fill in some gaps that haven't been addressed.

First, having sex with someone HIV-positive doesn't automatically mean that you will contract HIV or die, as Dunn suggested, especially if you use condoms and if the HIV-positive person's virus is suppressed by medication. Second, how do we really know that Bolden waited to disclose?

Bolden's sister told The Root that Bolden was up-front about her status and that she wasn't ashamed of it -- even her children knew. And while it may be hard for folks to wrap their heads around it, there are plenty of HIV-negative men who knowingly and willingly have sex with HIV-positive women.

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