Emotionally bruised after the collapse of her 20-year relationship, Rachel Dilley hoped internet dating would provide romance, a boost to her confidence and, with luck, lasting love.
Just short of 40 and with three teenage children, she thought no one would be interested in her dating profile, which made clear that after two decades of monogamy she was looking for serious commitment, rather than a casual, no-strings relationship. So she was surprised to find no shortage of men responding. The first date was a crushing disappointment but she hit it off instantly with the second man she met.
Swept up in a whirlwind love affair, it seemed unthinkable to suggest they both undergo tests for sexually transmitted diseases before embarking on a physical relationship — but that’s exactly what she’d do if she could turn back time.
Within three weeks they were lovers and were soon talking about moving in together. She introduced Simon to her children, and was thrilled when they liked him as much as she did. But then, after just three months, it was all over.
Why? She was devastated to find a letter in his apartment from another woman, suggesting he was also sleeping with someone else. It was a cruel blow to Rachel’s self-esteem. But the legacy of this ill-fated romance was to prove much more shattering than just a broken heart.
To her horror, she later discovered she had contracted HIV — a disease, she had always thought affected only people in Africa.