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Telling my family that I have HIV

Nov 25, 2006

I am a 20 year old male. I have known of my HIV status (+) for 10 months. I have come to terms with it, and have accepted it as my life from this point on, however long that may be. I am currently living with my parents, who are unaware of my status at this point. I am a beneficiary under my mother's health insurance plan, so it has been difficult and stressful trying to explain all of the doctor visits to her while still keeping my status a secret. Until now, I have been able to deal with it by turning to illicit drugs (which I have been using for years prior to learning of my infection) in order to take my mind off the feelings of pain, fear and helplessness, particularly heroin (which I should add that I have only ever sniffed or smoked, never IVed, so sharing needles and spreading the virus is not an issue with me). I have recently come to the realization that the drugs are not helping the situation, only worsening my condition. I was able to go to my parents for help on this issue, however I still find it extremely difficult to tell them that I have HIV. I know it would be in my best interest to do so, since it would be easier to get the help that I need to keep myself both physically and emotionally healthy. They are very loving and understanging individuals, and I know that after the initial shock they would be as helpful to me as they possibly can. I don't know what to do, or how to tell them. What can I say to them so that they won't be afraid for me, because I'm afraid enough for all of us.

Response from Dr. Horwath

You should tell your parents. You are not really protecting them by not telling them. You are only keeping them in the dark and keeping them distant from you. The fact is that you have HIV, and you cannot hide this reality from them in the long run. It is better for you and better for them if you tell them sooner rather than later.

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