In 2007, three women from Frisco, Texas, took matters into their own hands when they discovered that their boyfriend, Philippe Padieu, 54, had lied to them about his relationships with at least a dozen other women -- and, they say, never disclosed the fact that he had tested positively for HIV in September 2005. They say he continued to have unprotected sex with them and other women.
For months, they conducted their own investigation, going to great lengths to prevent more women from being infected. At least 11 of Padieu's former girlfriends say they have tested positive for HIV.
In May 2009, Padieu was convicted in a Texas court of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for infecting the women. He was later sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Elizabeth Vargas sat down with six of the women who contracted the HIV virus from Padieu to talk about their journey, their investigation and their friendship. Here, a woman ABC News is calling Susan Brown tells her story and explains why she chose to use a pseudonym; and Tricia Reeves, who decided not to be in disguise for the interview, shares how she coped with an HIV diagnosis.
Watch this story on "20/20" Friday at 10 p.m. ET
In Her Own Words: Susan Brown
My name is Susan Brown and I'm a 50+ grandmother with HIV. When I found out two years ago about my condition, I was in total denial, shock, and panic. I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm going to die a horrible death! No one must ever know!' I daydreamed about various ways to kill myself before anyone could find out. I was overcome with panic, obsessing about losing my job and insurance, wondering how I could possibly support my kids. I imagined people backing away and looking at me as if I was dirty. I wondered how I could possibly explain this to my family. How could this be true? How the hell could I have been SO STUPID!
Suicide was attractive, but not an option. Too many people depended on me. I would just have to find a way to survive as long as possible. I worried about Philippe Padieu, the man who I was sure had infected me. We had broken up, but I called him right away and urged him to get tested. I assured him, "We can get through this together." When he didn't follow up with me I became suspicious. After contacting the Health Department and sharing my concerns, I provided them with the name of his former girlfriend, Diane. She rushed to be tested and was diagnosed with AIDS. Diane and I located more of Philippe's girlfriends who also tested positive. We were certain that Philippe must have known his condition and our suspicions about him turned out to be true. We went to the police and filed a complaint. This was a huge risk, because the story was sure to be publicized and we would be exposed.
Fortunately, when we gave our statements we were provided pseudonyms. This did a lot to calm our fears and was also a critical decision factor for other women who wanted to join the case. After Philippe's arrest, it was surreal watching the media try to track us down. Worst of all, it was absolutely devastating to see that although we were putting our reputations on the line to stop a predator, people on the Internet blogs were calling us "sluts," "one night stands," and "deserving whores."