CSUN student copes with HIV diagnosis

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Michael Dillay. Photo Caption:

Michael Dilley, 41, tested positive for HIV in 1992 and since then has worked to spread prevention awareness about HIV. Photo Caption: Christiaan Patterson / Contributing Photographer

He tested positive for HIV in 1992, was paroled in 2007 and as a result 41-year-old Michael Dilley has tried to help others combat addiction and prevent HIV.

“Like four months after my diagnosis I was in a school talking about it,” said Dilley, a health education student.

Since Dilley was paroled in December of 2007, he has been working with the Tarzana Treatment Center, the largest taxpayer supported treatment facility in Los Angeles. Dilley was reluctant to discuss his arrest and subsequent parole violation but alluded to committing a crime to support his drug habit.

“They educate the community,” Dilley said. “I am an addict and alcoholic with 21 months in the program. I successfully discharged my parole of 21 months three weeks ago.”

Dilley attributed his behavior and propensity toward petty crime to drugs.

“It was over the need for more or the perceived need for more,” he said. “I was stuck in a rut for a long time.”

Before Dilley’s HIV diagnosis, he hadn’t committed any crime.

“It’s not an excuse, but I was married, just had my second daughter and I find out that I was positive and my whole life just — yeah, I gave up,” Dilley said. “I went back to what I knew, which was drugs, and it went off crazy.”

He was in San Joaquin Valley when he got the diagnosis.

“Out in the middle of nowhere,” Dilley said. “Daughters are negative, ex-wife didn’t get it … I don’t know why, (but) thank God.”

He spoke about how the HIV was affecting his mind in terms of making him fearful of other people. When Dilley walked into the Daily Sundial newsroom he said he was afraid to shake my hand because of what I might’ve thought of him for having HIV.

“I was aware of that,” he said. “He’s reaching his hand out to me, he knows I’m positive, but that’s OK. It’s always there, little things like that.”

Dating is a particularly difficult for Dilley because of the fact that he has to disclose his HIV status.

“Do you only date positive people?” Dilley said. “There’re positive (Web) sites. The fear of if you do fall in love with someone that’s negative — what if the condom breaks? What if something happens? Because everyone wants to share their life with someone.”

Dilley didn’t hold a baby for some 10 years after his diagnosis, he said.

“Just for the fear that this person might find out, ‘Oh, he’s positive, he held my baby.’”

After visiting a free dating Web site last year, Dilley met a woman and carried on a relationship for about a month.

“We’re still friends,” he said. “It was my first Internet date, my first date in a long time.”

Dilley has never had sex without first telling his partner that he was HIV positive.

“But it’s difficult,” Dilley said. “So, I told her. And she was taken aback, She shared something about her, which wasn’t HIV, but she decided it was OK. We decided to take precautions.”

It’s a fear of rejection that Dilley carries with him, he said.

“Without the 12-step recovery program in my life, I would not be able to face the fears I faced in these two years,” Dilley said. “I would not (have) been able to go to school, get a job, work out on parole, all these fears — but the 12-step program has helped me so much.”

Dilley’s mother had all but disowned him two years ago, but is now visiting him.

“I earned her distrust,” said Dilley. “My daughters, who I haven’t talked to in five and a half years — I went to my daughter’s high school graduation. We text now back and forth.”

Dilley has been continuously in and out of drug use.

“A relationship would go bad and I’d go back to what I knew—that was drugs,” Dilley said.

Attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and events, for a long time Dilley never did all of the things that the program dictated for recovery.

“I was too smart, I figured I only needed to do certain steps,” Dilley said.

It was the work that he didn’t think he had to do. Recovery is work, Dilley said.

“I did all those things this time,” said Dilley. “With those twelve steps and that sponsor, I changed on the inside.”


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  • alex

    Whatever crime Mr. Dilley committed he has paid his debt to society.

    Shame on those of you who are focusing exclusively on what that crime could be instead of recognizing that it takes a certain amount of courage to disclose one’s criminal past and HIV status.

    I hope that others who may be where Mr. Dilley once was can see this article and know that they can turn their lives around too.

    Well done Mr. Dilley!

  • Michael Dilley

    My name is Michael Dilley. The motivation of this story arose out of my feelings toward the latest news about the man in LA county jail right now for purposefully infecting women with HIV, and the story 2 months ago of a parolee killing a young lady near here. I wanted people to be able to know that there were parolees and/or HIV Positive people that are not doing that kinda thing. There are many of us out here doing exactly what we are supposed to do. In many cases, more than is expected. We are assetts to the community; employed, educating others and helping those that are in our situations to follow our paths.
    I did not feel that my prison time, nor my offenses were ‘the story’, therefore I avoided giving great detail. My intentions were not to have a story about ME, it was about the many of us out here that are experiencing success, changing our lives and helping our community to be a better place for us and our children to live. But as you know, ‘Prison’, ‘Crime’, and the misfortunes of others are what so many of us find interesting and news worthy. In the interview, I gave enough Hope, Success and Emotion that it was not necessary to focus on my past, prison and crime.
    For the ‘Change on the Inside’ that I have experienced, I wanted to acknowledge Tarzana Treatment Centers and the 12-step experiences that I’ve had, and continue to have. I’ll be forever greatful to both.

  • David

    Mr. Dilley:

    Isn’t it true that most of the 12-step programs emphasize “admitting to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs?”

    As long as you’re letting the Sundial tell your story, why not tell us what you did to land yourself in prison? It had to be a rather significant crime constituting one or more felonies.

    On another note: Why are nearly all of the “recommended links” on the Sundial website are for criminal defense attorneys and DUI lawyers? What’s up with that?

    • Michael Dilley

      Yes, David. That is one of the 12 steps. If you notice, ‘Sudial Readers’ is not written in the step.
      I am very candid when I am involved with HIV education and prevention. If you are interested in setting up an education and prevention panel, let me know. I’m involved with several professional agencies that will provide the service.
      It was not my intention to ‘tell my story’. I addressed this further in a comment on Sep 28.

  • JS

    “He tested positive for HIV in 1992, was paroled in [Dec] 2007…”

    “Before Dilley’s HIV diagnosis, he hadn’t committed any crime.”

    Hmmm, so that means he committed the crime sometime during or after 1992. If he was arrested immediately after committing the crime and then released from prison and placed on parole in Dec 2007, that means he could have spent as much as 17 years in prison (1992 – 2007).

    Many people have done less time than that for murder or manslaughter.

    Are we supposed to feel good about this story? Simply put, prison is not rehabilitation – it is punishment for committing crime.

  • JS

    So what crime(s) did Dilley commit that got him sent to prison?

    What did he do that led to the “subsequent parole violation?”

    Now that he is formally off parole, am I to assume that he is not dangerous? After all, he is a convicted felon who won’t disclose the nature of his offenses.

    Did he commit property crimes such as theft or fraud, etc? Or was it something more sinister like robbery, kidnapping, or rape.

    I know that you don’t go to prison for petty property crimes. It usually takes some sort of serious crime to go to prison AND be placed on parole for 21 months after being released.

    • sam2

      I agree with JS. This article feels incomplete. It’s as if the author is trying to manipulate us into feeling bad for Dilley by not giving us the full picture.
      Was Dilley’s story even fact checked? Did anyone actually look at his record to see if he was telling the truth?

      • Jared Morgan

        Thanks for the feedback, you’re both right, this was pretty incomplete.

    • Michael Dilley

      JS, if you are seriously interested in knowing the answers to your questions and concerns, I’m sure that you can find my CSUN e-mail address, write me and I’ll talk to you. I’ll not post it here because it’s just not necessary.

    • alex

      “I know that you don’t go to prison for petty property crimes”?!?!?

      What country do you live in?
      Last I checked people go to prison for all number of petty offenses.

      Let’s also not forget the category of non-violent drug offenses that people do excess time for due to mandatory sentencing laws.

      Your ignorance and baseless “fear” are astounding.