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Brother who says he is not HIV positive.
Jul 22, 2006

While my husband's 76 yr. old brother was in the hospital with congestive heart failure, we found many bottles of medicine from a clinic. We consulted out pharmacist to find these are medicines prescribed to HIV patients. When we asked he stated he did not know what they were for, but he was very evasive about whether he is HIV positive or not. The doctor will not tell us anything about his condition. We are his future care-givers. How do we get the truth about his condition? His son died of AIDS. We have knowledge that he has not given this information to his cardiologist or emergency personnel when he goes to the hospital. We need to know how to help our loved one.

Response from Dr. Horwath

People with HIV are often afraid to disclose their HIV status because it means disclosing the behavior that led to their exposure. This might include sexual behavior or drug use that they have kept secret from family members, fearing a judgmental and rejecting reaction to the information. This is understandable because many HIV positive individuals have been subjected to harsh and moralistic reactions from their families at a time when they were most sick and vulnerable.

I'm sure that you would not treat your brother-in-law this way, but he may nonetheless be afraid. Quite apart from fearing your reaction, he may also feel guilty or ashamed of past behaviors that led to the HIV infection. If he feels ashamed, then naturally it would be difficult for him to talk about it openly.

I would recommend telling him what you know (that you've seen the medicine), that you intend to be helpful and supportive with him if he allows you to, that you do not wish to judge him, and that you will be there for him when he is ready to accept your help.

As for his cardiologist and emergency personnel, that needs to be between him and them. Emergency personnel use universal precautions with all patients, and the cardiologist can only provide treatment based on what he knows. I would advise talking further with him and encouraging him to speak to his doctors about this issue.



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