For four years, Terry Hedgepeth's life was in shambles -- and in limbo. After he found out his girlfriend was HIV-positive, Terry went to the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, DC on Dec. 13, 2000 to get tested. His results were positive. He went to the clinic every three months for five years for regular check-ups, but was told his virus count was so low, he didn't need medications. During this time, he lost his job, moved into a homeless shelter (where he had sex with an HIV-positive resident) and was in and out of the psych ward to treat his depression. He was so despondent, he wanted to die -- but not from HIV/AIDS; He wanted the DC sniper to off him. Alas, after he was told to seek holistic treatment, he went to another clinic where his blood was tested and doctors found he was negative. He filed a $20 million lawsuit against Whitman-Walker Clinic in 2005 for "emotional distress and anxiety, physical damages including loss of weight, loss of contact with friends and family, commitment to psychiatric facilities, severe and persistent depression and suicidal ideation, past present and future lost earnings, damage to his reputation, and the loss of nearly four years of normal life." That suit was tossed by a judge, because the law says you can only sue if there has been physical injury. Interestingly, if he had taken HIV medication, the courts said, he could have sued -- because then he could have proven harm. Last week, however, a DC appellate court expanded the law to include emotional injury and Terry's lawsuit is back on the docket for this fall.
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