Mumbai: A thirst for avenging her fate coupled with an abnormally high desire for sex has led a 28-year-old HIV-positive woman to put more than 300 men at risk of contracting the virus in the last two years by having unprotected sex with them.
Shraddha (name changed) got infected by her "promiscuous husband in 2005 through no fault of her own" and has told her doctor that infecting other people is her way of taking revenge. The list of her partners includes her employers, relatives, friends, liftmen, taxi drivers and even students.
Dr Ishwar Gilada, MD, UNISON Medicare & Research Centre, who has been treating HIV-positive and AIDS-affected patients, says he has found himself caught between the devil and the deep sea.
On the one hand, patient confidentiality is holding him back from revealing the woman's identity and on the other, he is concerned about the men she has and will infect through sexual intercourse.
"She can be described as a Compulsive Obsessive HIV Transmitter. However, the possibility of her having nymphomania (a manic psychological disorder characterised by a hyperactive sex desire and an obsession with sex) cannot be ruled out. This HIV patient has slept with over 300 men in the past two years to take revenge from her husband," said Dr Gilada.
Talking about his dilemma, he said, "The law of the land states that an HIV-positive person should not be identified and also, as a doctor, I am duty-bound to keep her identity confidential. I have never faced a more difficult situation.
The woman has recounted incidents of her unprotected sexual encounters with her employers, their sons and relatives, students and even the son of a lady doctor and, yet, I am helpless."
"Who do I protect, my patient who is confiding in me or the unsuspecting males who are falling prey to her?" he asked, his exasperation evident.
Dr Gilada said Shraddha was brought to his clinic by her relative, who is also being treated for HIV there. She is not on anti-retroviral treatment as her CD4 count is well maintained and she does not have any serious medical disorder.
"She got the infection from her husband, who she married in 2001 and separated from in 2005 after she came to know that he was promiscuous and had given her the infection.
She has a ten-year-old deaf and mute son who is in an ashram. Her sister is also in touch with us and is trying to convince her to give up her ways but she refuses," said Dr Gilada.
"Even when I tried to convince her, she told me 'If I was infected by my husband for no dishonesty or fault on my part, why should I keep this dirty infection to myself alone. Let everybody get a little prasad from me.'"
After an unwanted pregnancy in 2008, Shraddha has been on contraceptive pills.
Adding that it wouldn't be fair to blame her alone, the doctor said, "Those who had unprotected sex with her are also to blame. None of them suspected that she had a sexually transmitted disease or even offered to use a condom."
Meanwhile, those treating HIV-positive patients had mixed reactions to the case: Dr S Kudalkar, project director of Mumbai District Aids Control Society, said, "It is human nature and, thus, we cannot rule out the revenge tendency that an HIV-positive person may experience. But we have no documented record of any such case."
He added that sharing knowledge about an HIV-positive patient and disclosing the identity of the person with an intention to malign him or her are two different things, "But, to comment on the case in question, I have to understand the history before deriving any conclusion," he said.
Dr Amar Pajare, who heads the ART centre at KEM hospital said he had never come across any such case. "We never force our patients to disclose to the source of infection, although 95 per cent of them have acquired the infection through sexual contact. Most patients accept the fact that they are HIV-positive and take precautions or avoid sex."
Commenting on the unique nature of the case, Prabha Desai, director, Sanmitra Trust, which works for AIDS prevention and treatment said, "There are both men and women who, in spite of knowing that they are infected with HIV, indulge in sex with multiple partners.
Take the case of a 22-year-old widow I had counselled. She was very attractive and intelligent but did not have enough educational qualification to get a job. She got into prostitution despite being HIV-positive and made a lot of money."
"The majority of patients who indulge in unprotected sex even after testing positive for HIV have two major motives: One, that they have only few years to live and they should enjoy to the fullest and two, that they just cannot get rid of the habit. But, we have never seen a person doing this just as an act of revenge," she added.
In 2008, a white 43-year-old mother of one was sentenced to 32 months in prison for infecting black men with AIDS after contracting it from her black lover. One of the men who tested positive for the disease had said the woman was on a "payback mission". "She caught HIV off a black guy and now she's on a payback mission. All the guys she has slept with since are black," he said.