NewsCovering Kern County


72-year-old woman believes she contracted AIDS from her late husband

Posted at 10:04 AM, Dec 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-02 11:09:45-05

Three years ago Martha Warriner Jarrett and her husband Ronald moved to Bakersfield to embark on a new chapter in their lives.


But just six weeks after the move -- the then 69-year-old retired attorney was rushed to the hospital for high blood pressure and respiratory failure. 


Just one month shy of her 70th birthday and in a coma -- Little did she know -- she was knocking on death's door. 


"Nobody was sure I was ever going to wake up," said Jarrett.


Luckily she did. 


"I woke up and found out I'd tested positive for HIV," said Jarrett.


Martha and her current husband, Ronald, had been married for four years when she was diagnosed, but he tested negative for HIV. 

"I realized that it had come from my late husband that'd died in 2009," said Jarrett.


Initially doctors told her that her late husband had died due to complications from double pneumonia.

But Martha said looking back -- she now believes that he died of AIDS.


"He was 77,” said Jarrett. “And so he was way outside the group that normally would be suspect.”


In her memoir “A Rough Season” she wrote, “as I delved deeper into the whole HIV thing, I came to realize that Alan might well have gotten it from another man.”


Jarrett said she never suspected her husband of having extramarital affairs.


While she can't pinpoint exactly when her late husband gave her the disease, Martha said she had suffered from muscle aches, migraines and even memory loss for nearly two years.


Her doctor at the time never tested her for HIV. Instead she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.


Dr. Franco Felizarta, a local HIV and Infectious Disease Specialist, said HIV misdiagnoses happen all too often.


"If you have symptoms, it's very non-specific,” said Dr. Felizarta. “It might look like any other viral infections."


He added that it can take anywhere from five to 10 years before a carrier experiences any symptoms.


After months of rehabilitation, proper treatment, and the support of her loving husband by her side, the incurable disease is now virtually undetectable. 


Martha now spends her time advocating for HIV Awareness and says she hopes her story will serve as a wake-up call to people of all ages.


For more information on HIV/AIDS awareness or where to go for testing visit Planned Parenthood, The Kern County Public Health Department, or Bakersfield AIDS Project.