Thursday, September 6, 2012, Cicely Bolden a 28 year old woman living with HIV was brutally and fatally stabbed after disclosing her HIV status to her boyfriend Larry Dunn Jr. Ms. Bolden was the mother of two young children and a resident of Dallas, Texas before she was murdered after disclosing her HIV status. In the days following the death of Ms. Bolden much was written about this unbelievable act and was the highlight of the media and the community. After the customary waiting period her body was laid to rest and it seem as though so was her story. The man who admitted that he murdered her was arrested and was quietly awaiting his day in court.
Although, there has been no recent hoopla concerning the penalty meted out to this woman as a result of her HIV status disclosure this would have played out differently had she not disclosed. One thing is very clear had Cicely exposed her murderer to HIV without disclosure and he reported this to authorities the scene would have played out differently. It would have made main stream media and would not be playing out in the obscurity of a small courtroom with a larger jury than gallery. She most likely would have been faced with separation from her children, family, and friends via a stent in the penal system. There is a penalty for HIV transmission, but quiet as it’s often kept there’s also a penalty for HIV disclosure.
October 29, 2013, one year, one month, three weeks, and two days after that horrendous day Larry Dunn Jr. the admitted murderer of Cicely Bolden awaits his fate for that fatal act. The trial of the man that murdered Ms. Bolden after disclosing her HIV status finally begins. After a year of waiting the community of advocates, friends, family, and loved ones, wait again to see if justice will come. Today should begin the process for what should lead to justice for a life ended too soon. A life that should have been filled with promise and the excitement of watching her children grow up enjoying all that life can now, even with an HIV diagnosis, offer her.
An HIV diagnosis today is not a reason to die an early death. With each day current research is offered the opportunity to discover means that bring us closer to an end of HIV. There are also promises and delivery of new treatment offering greater quality of living for those with HIV that was only a dream in the early years of this disease. With all of the advances that can possibly end this epidemic there is one deadly disease associated with HIV that remains impossible to cure. The disease of ignorance fueled by stigma that has persisted more than 30 years. It remains a deterrent to ending HIV and until stigma is no more, sadly there will be more Cicely’s.
The penalty to HIV disclosure can no longer continue to be perpetuated with violence that can lead to death. Many women living with HIV are fearful of disclosure of their status and this fear is very real. The outcomes of this fear can lead to HIV related health outcomes as well as AIDS related deaths. There cannot continue to be this system of archaic laws not based on science but based on ideology that requires disclosure. If the disclosure of ones HIV status is ignored it can lead to imprisonment, but there must also be a protective measures in place when disclosure takes place. The fear of violence and death will lead people to non-disclosure and hesitancy about confirming ones status by being tested.
The murder trial of Larry Dunn Jr. admitted murderer of Cicely Bolden offers the opportunity to end violence against women and others living with HIV after self-disclosure. Larry Dunn Jr., stated “she killed me so I killed her”, he was referencing her HIV status. He made a conscious decision to have sex with someone that he didn’t know their HIV status without using a condom. Upon finding out her status he continued to have sex with her without using a condom, even if it was one time, that is what he says. Cicely is not here to corroborate that, whether one time or a thousand times he made the decision to do so.
The decision to have sex without using a condom more than 30 years into the HIV epidemic may have been made out of ignorance. Although, we live at a time where safer sex messages are everywhere he may not have been aware of his options. Even though, he alluded to the fact that to not use a condom was a foolish act. Whether this decision was made out of ignorance or indifference is irrelevant to the decision he made on September 6, 2012. The decision Larry Dunn Jr. made that day resulted in the senseless death of this young mother, daughter, sister, and friend and ignorance cannot be used as his defense.
Cicely Bolden’s death and so many other’s whose stories are not being told cannot go unpunished!