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STAY MUM ON HIV ON FIRST DATE

Dear Abby: I am a blond, slim, 5-foot-10 female -- single and in great shape. People tell me I am beautiful. I am also HIV-positive.

I would like to meet someone special and settle down. But as soon as I meet a man I like, I struggle with the question of when to reveal my health situation. I have told them right away and I never hear from them again, which I find very insulting.

Some of my friends tell me I should date a guy for a few months and then say something, but I'd feel betrayed if someone waited that long to tell me.

I don't want to just blurt out the information at a first meeting. I'm very confused. Please help me.

-- Wants to Be Married, Gainesville, Fla.
Dear Wants to Be Married: There is no need to wear a a scarlet letter declaring to anyone who shows an interest that you are HIV-positive. There is EVERY reason in the world to take the time to get to know someone -- and for him to get to know you -- before having sex. When you are finally ready for physical intimacy, you should then disclose your HIV status. If the man loves you, he won't leave you. If he doesn't love you, good riddance.

One less child

Dear Abby: My husband and I recently lost our 24-year-old son in an automobile accident. While the emotional pain is tremendous, we're now beginning to venture out into social gatherings. Inevitably the question comes up, "How many children do you have?" How should we answer that question?

It feels wrong to acknowledge only our two remaining children, but saying, "We had three, but recently lost one" sounds like we have a cat that can't find its way home. Also, it steers the conversation in one of two paths -- a detailed conversation about his death, or one that ends awkwardly.

Should we just say we have one son living "here" and a daughter living "there," and assume the person will eventually learn that we had another child? This may seem like a silly question, but it makes us not want to venture out much.

-- Grieving in Richmond, Va.
Dear Grieving: Your letter illustrates once again how dangerous it is to ask personal questions. Asking people if they have children, or how many they have, can also be devastating to couples who have been unable to conceive.

In a situation like yours, respond that you had three children, but one recently died in a car accident -- and then change the subject. Unless the questioner has the hide of a rhinoceros, he or she will be glad to discuss something else.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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