Saturday, May 24, 2014

HIV+ in the family: What keeping secrets did not accomplish

This is a blog post about HIV/AIDS that I never imagined writing.  

A member of my immediate family passed recently. That individual passed due to complications from being HIV+. A status that he had been dealing with during the past several years of his life.  Being HIV+ was a status that he opted to keep secret from most of our family. 

I had suspected that HIV was at the root of his numerous internal health problems a couple of years ago. Too many internal problems kept cropping up and a lot of frequent stays in ICU made me feel that the truth about what was happening was being kept secret. I felt so strongly about my suspicions that I shared them with other family members.  However none of us felt motivated enough to raise this possibility up with the person who might have discovered that we would not have rejected him. I realize now that this was an error on our part. Having that conversation might have helped him to open up his life more to us. The burden of knowing what was going on did not have to be pent up inside of his thoughts.  We could have helped him to share that load.

I realize that there is a stigma about being infected with HIV that still exists today. I have no true clue about how he became infected with the virus. That is not really important at this point in time because his passing ended the struggle to live with the results of the disease. Hopefully the source of his infection has sought out medical help. 

Being rejected at a time when the need to be close to your family and friends is a difficult reality to embrace. Even though there was an awareness that HIV might have been the source of so much illness, it was not powerful enough to keep us from interacting with our loved one. A reality that I am not sure if he realized prior to passing.

There is a lesson in our experience that you may benefit from knowing. Unconditional love does not withhold its presence in the time of crisis or true need. It actually continues to find ways to reach out and provide what is needed. 

Get checked. Know your status. Know the status of the people that you are sexually intimate with because it could make all the difference on how your life is lived. After watching the struggle to overcome the different health issues that are connected to being HIV+, I am convinced that preventive care is the key.



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