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Jake returns
Aug 24, 2006

Hi Dr Bob,

Its Jake here (the son of the worried father that caused a hot discussion on your forum). Ive been reading your forum ever since in admiration, and figured you might like an update on where I am. Im living with a couple of buddies, a couple of towns over from my family. I havent told my mom, or my brother or sisters, but am doing ok. Im undetectable and at 550, so dont think theres any need to tell them while Im this healthy. Im still close with my family (except my father, who is still mad at me), and have built a good support network in my new home. Both my flatmates know and theyre totally cool and supportive. So generally life is cool. HIV is under control, I have good buddies and generally good family relationships. The only exception is my father, and I can accept that, when is life ever perfect? Mine is going perfectly ok for now.

Saw you were on 24 pills a day, I hope this isnt making your HIV journey too much harder. Love ya Dr Bob. Your buddy

Jake

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hey Jake,

Welcome back. We've all been very worried about you!

I still don't agree with not telling your mom and siblings, but of course the ultimate decision is yours. But do consider this. You mention you don't think there is any need to tell your mom and sibling you are HIV positive while you are so healthy. Do you really think it's going to be better or easier to tell them when you're really sick??? I certainly don't.

I am glad you've expanded your support group and that your flatmates are cool.

As for my HIV journey, what I've learned along the way these past 15 years is that it's always better to disclose my status at the earliest convenient moment to friends, family and even acquaintances. That way, if someone has a problem with my being virally enhanced, it immediately becomes their problem, not mine. I'm quite confident that eventually you'll learn this lesson as well hopefully sooner rather than later.

I'll repost your father's original question below as well as some of the follow-up comments for the benefit of our readers.

Be well. Stay well. You've got a friend here anytime you need him.

Dr. Bob

Are my kids at risk?

May 2, 2006

My son has AIDS. I don't know for how long, he is 19 years old and I found out when I found his medications in his room. I was checking for drugs because hes been acting strange, but sure as anything didnt expect this. I have three younger kids, the youngest is only 9. Should I ask him to move out? Hes gay (I have nothing against this) but hes also a bad influence on his brother and sisters. Now hes AIDS is he dangerous to them? Or me and his mother? Thank you for any advice.

worried father

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Worried Father,

You just found out your 19-year-old son has AIDS and your first inclination is to throw him out of the house???? WOW. Apparently your moniker, "Worried Father," applies to being worried about everyone (including yourself), but not your son!!! Shame on you, sir.

Is your gay HIV-positive son a danger to you, your wife or your other children? No. HIV is not transmitted by casual contact. No way. No how.

Perhaps the reason your son has been acting strangely is because he has HIV/AIDS and has tragically felt the need to hide this information from you and the rest of his family. Of course, now that I see what your initial reaction is, I understand his desire to keep his diagnosis secret.

I suggest you, your wife and your son sit down and discuss the situation rationally. Family counseling may be very beneficial. Go with your son to his HIV/AIDS specialist physician visits and talk with his doctor. Get involved with your son's life and help support him through this crisis. Turning your back on him now and throwing him out of the house would be both cruel and immoral.

Dr. Bob

explanation for worried father

May 9, 2006

Dear Doctor,

My father recently wrote to you I'm the "19-year-old-son" of the "worried father." He told me about this site after he'd used it. He was not happy! But thanks for trying. Firstly, I am totally amazed by you and this site. It's helped me so much. Thank you for all your responses to people, you give us hope.

Secondly, like I said, my father has had it out with me, and I just think I should clarify a few things about him, especially after the case worker's response. I know he came over bad, so I totally get your reactions, but honestly, he's not a bad guy. He's just angry because I've gotten myself infected and didn't tell him. So he's been worried, he's not a bad guy. I was in the wrong here. I was just concerned about the consequences, for everyone. My coming out was tough on him, and this is tougher. It's not that he wants to throw me out, it's that it might be better for everyone if I go. He just wants a happy home for his family, and I'm making that damn near impossible. We're a pretty traditional family (apart from me, Republicans (bet you're amazed by that), catholic, we call my dad "sir" you get the picture). I'm amazed he found this site and brought himself to post, may be that's a good start. Really, he's not used to being disobeyed. But he's a good man. Just different to me. That doesn't make me right, or him wrong, just makes us different I guess. The horror on his face at your counseling suggestion would have been funny in a different situation. I think he needs more time. He's not told my mom or brother and sisters since they're not at risk. I'm going to move out for a bit, let him deal with it first. I may have screwed myself up, but I'm not gonna cause collateral damage.

Jake (guilty son of a worried father)

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Jake,

Thanks for writing in, and I will give "Sir"-Father a bit of credit for at least turning you on to this site. But as for him being such a "good man," nope. I'm not at all convinced. "Sir" just wants a happy home for his family??? Aren't you part of that family??? Your family doesn't sound "traditional;" it sounds dysfunctional and tragic to me. You call your dad "Sir"??? Sounds more like the army than a loving family. Catholic, Republicans yeah, what a shocker! Dad's not used to being disobeyed??? So I suppose that means you're supposed to vote for those morally reprehensible folks occupying the White House and Congress???

And what's this nonsense about "he's not told my mom or brother or sisters . . . ." Why is it up to him? Why don't you tell them? Since when is being honest "collateral damage?"

Jake, you should not feel guilty. I'm sure "Sir-Daddy-Dearest" has never ever made a mistake or had a lapse in judgment or had any type of indiscretion whatsoever, and that's why he can be so self-righteous about you're becoming HIV positive, right? I repeat he should be ashamed of himself.

Jake, you are a much better son to your father than he is a father to you, his son.

My advice:

1. If you move out, do so because you want to remove yourself from a toxic environment caused by an out-of-touch, self-righteous and self-deluded Daddy Dearest.

2. Tell your mom, brother and sisters what's going on. Better yet, show them these posts.

3. Your father is going to need a lot more than counseling, if he's ever to become a truly "good man."

I'm here if you need me, Jake.

Be well.

Dr. Bob

You're not alone

May 12, 2006

Hi Dr Bob,

Your forum is so incredible. Thank you. So much. I've been positive for 4 years now (I'm 23), and have been reading it pretty regular for the last couple of years. I'm only writing in now because I had virtually the exact same experience with parents as Jake's experiencing right now. Hang in there Jake, whatever you do is going to be tough, but things will get better. They really will. Anyway, Dr Bob, I never told the rest of my family beyond my dad. I just think that you should know why people like me act the way we do (and, from reading Jake's post, he seems pretty much the same). Thing is, I agree with everything you say in principle, but its easy to stick to principle when nothing's at stake. Reality however is just so different to how I wish it were. I just want to explain why, although I wish with all my heart that your ideas would have worked for me, I think it's just impossible, and from the sound of it, it's gonna be the same for Jake:

1) I grew up with my family. Yes, I know, obvious, but you see, this means it's impossible just to think of that as "toxic." They're what I was always taught was "right." Admittedly, my beliefs and lifestyle are, for whatever reasons, different, but if I didn't tolerate their beliefs, wouldn't that make me just as guilty? So, although I moved out shortly after the fight with my dad, I can't blame him. I still don't. He's my father, I can't switch that off. I was always taught to try to please him, and have always desperately wanted him to like me. I still do. Fighting with him is never going to achieve that. Maybe in time, he'll forgive me.

2) Is it ever right to cause anyone pain? No. Is it even worse to cause pain to those you love? Yes. What would've happen if I told the rest of my family? Simple: there'd have been anger, pain, sadness, fights, all the things my dad strives to avoid. Chaos. How could I in good conscience do that to the people I love? I couldn't. Things would never be the same for them or me. Even now, 4 years on, having done very little, whenever I see my dad (not very often), I see the pain I caused him, and feel the deepest shame. How could I do this to my mom, brothers and sister, who I love more than anything in the world? Also, even if they decided to support me, the outcome would be bad, in fact, possibly worse: that would mean my parents splitting. Not necessarily literally, but it would drive a wedge between them, and that can't be good either for them or my younger siblings, and would be entirely my fault.

3) It's not my job to change my dad. He gave me life, education, food, a home, clothes He's provided for his family and I believe he really does care for us. But how did I repay him? By being gay (tho I refuse to blame myself for that. OK, so I'm sorry I'm not the son he wanted, but that's something I couldn't have stopped). But getting myself infected? That was stupid, and then I gave him lies. Though I never actually lied, just hid the truth. This is why he reacted to my disease with anger and shame.

So you see, I love your philosophy, and your advice, and wish with all my heart that my dad was like you, but he isn't. So personally I didn't dare go charging in like Cheney on a quail hunt. If I'd tried to force my family to change for my own gain, or because of my own beliefs, then I'd be no better than, and in fact, eerily similar to, Dubya and Iraq, (yes I know, completely different scale etc, but as long as the principle's the same, then everything else is just haggling over the price). And that, as you can imagine, is not exactly the lead I want to follow. I dunno if Jake's got the same outlook as me, but it sure sounds like it. Jake, I'll be straight with you, it's a tough ride if you do what I did, but for me, and everyone else, I think it's better than the alternative. Lastly, I have a great support network, and a wonderful boyfriend. Jake, make sure you develop one (support network, boyfriends are optional but fun!) go to your local ASO, get connected! For me, this means, much as it tears me up, I don't actually need my family to know, and I don't actually need my dad's approval. Sorry this is such a long post, but really, this isn't an easy issue, and there's no easy solution! Take care of yourself Dr Bob, you mean so much to people like me (and presumably Jake!)

Matt

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Matt,

Thanks for taking the time to write in and share your story. You are correct in that there are many "Jakes," and, in fact, many "Matts" out there. However, beyond that, I'm afraid we are going to have to agree to disagree on everything else in your post. I'll make just a few points for you (and the other "Jakes" and "Matts") to ponder:

1. "Reality" is just that real! That means you are gay and HIV positive. Hiding that reality, especially from those you love and who love you, doesn't make it any less real.

2. Sexual orientation is not a "lifestyle," despite what you may have been taught. By asking (demanding) your family to accept (or at least acknowledge) your sexual orientation, you are not being intolerant of their sexual orientation. You didn't disown your parents when you realized they were straight, did you?

3. Wanting to please parents is normal. However, if doing so requires "forgiveness" for your innate sexual orientation, that's pure nonsense. Acceptance and forgiveness are two very different concepts. Forgiveness suggests you did something wrong. Being born gay is not wrong. Fighting with Dad may never change him or get him to like you; however, standing up for who you intrinsically are as a person is critically important for your self esteem.

4. Should you tell the rest of your family? Absolutely. The argument that it would upset Daddy's perfect and artificial world doesn't really make sense. Sure, there will be discomfort and sadness, but there may be other emotions as well, like love, compassion, support, etc. Probably the best way to look at this would be to consider a situation in which your brother or sister was HIV positive and he or she decided not to tell you, because he or she felt it might upset you (or Daddy's parallel universe). Meanwhile our limited time on this planet ticks by and you do nothing to help support your beloved brother or sister through very challenging and frightening times. Is that the kind of "reality" you want to perpetuate?

5. On those rare occasions when you see Daddy-Dearest, it is he who should "feel the deepest shame," not you!

6. I agree it is not your job to change your dad. Neither is it his job to cause you shame. You may not be the son he wanted. But don't forget he's not exactly the dad you would have picked out from the dad-catalogue either!

7. Stop feeling so guilty about becoming HIV positive! There are over 40,000,000 million of us in the same boat. You didn't contract the virus on purpose. It was a mistake.

8. If you "love my philosophy and my advice" and "agree with everything I say in principle," why are you so sure my "ideas won't work" for you? Despite your advice to Jake, I do not believe the path you have chosen to follow is better for you or anyone else than the alternative of being honest. Concealing "reality" from your mom and siblings is not loving them, nor is it protecting them. It's merely playing into your father's toxic pathology. By your own admission, you report "it's been a tough ride," and nothing much has changed for four years! You report you "don't actually need my family to know," but that fact also "tears me up." Why would you want this same scenario for Jake? Matt, I suggest you copy your post and my response and take it to one of the counselors at your local ASO. I'll bet they will agree with my position. I'm delighted you have found a way to cope with toxic Dad by developing a strong support network and finding a wonderful boyfriend. I hope Jake does the same. However, I also hope Jake takes a hard look at the "reality" of your life for the past four years and realizes that the alternative approach is really the way to go. Matt, you're correct: "this is not an easy issue." However, I really don't think you're making it any easier on yourself (or ultimately anyone else) by playing into your father's intolerance.

Give it some thought, Matt.

I'm always here if you need me.

Dr. Bob

Your response to "Jake"

May 24, 2006

Dear Dr. Bob,

I have been positive for three years and have continuously used your site as a source of information and support. Thanks for a great resource!

I do, however, take umbrage at your response to Jake's recent post in which you deride "catholic Republicans" and in which you seem to paint all of them with a rather broad brush.

My family is very Catholic and very Republican, though perhaps closer to Chafee than Santorum. They were, and continue to be, very supportive both when I came out and when I told them I was infected with HIV. I am a doctoral student with, as I'm sure you can imagine, less than adequate insurance. Every time I've needed help they've stepped up to the plate. And their support certainly has gone beyond the financial realm.

I consider myself a moderate and do not hold strict allegiance to either party. I would hope you realize that people from various backgrounds, including Catholic Replubicans, find this site, and your posts in particular, to be quite helpful. Some may use this site as their sole resource for dealing with HIV. I would also hope that as a presumably tolerant and understanding person you would, in the future, refrain from making unconstructive and unjustified remarks that paint an entire group of Americans in a rather bad light based on the action of one person.

regards,

Doug

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi Doug,

No personal offense intended. However, my comments are not "based on the action of one person." I think it's fair to say that the response of Republicans and Catholics (and rightwing religious zealots of any other flavor as well) to HIV/AIDS and homosexuality has been . . . how shall I put this? . . . um, less than enlightened or helpful. Pat Buchanan summed up the new Reagan conservatives' view by saying "the poor homosexuals they have declared war against nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution." And the Catholic Church refers to me as "an abomination" and states that the use of condoms is a sin.

Sorry, Doug, my tolerance and understanding for this type of hate and lack of common sense and moral decency has run out. The AIDS pandemic has now been with us for 25 years. With one life being snuffed out every 10 seconds of every minute of every hour of every day and 14,000 people contracting the virus each and every day, I cannot in good conscience tolerate the "Republican" or "Catholic" perspective on HIV prevention or homosexuality.

I'm delighted your "very Catholic and very Republican" parents are supportive. Unfortunately most are not.

Take umbrage if you must Doug, but like it or not, in far too many ways "Republicans" and "Catholics" continue to fan the flames of the AIDS pandemic. And that, to me, is a sin.

Dr. Bob

Worried Father

May 14, 2006

Dear Bob,

This isn't a question. I just want to issue a "Bravo!" in your direction for your excellently phrased response to the "Worried Father". I live in the UK, am gay, a bit older than you, my partner's a Clinical Scientist, and I am an actor and, like you, a pianist. And like you too, I try to live according to those exemplary words of Shaw. Best Wishes, "BrokenWingedBird", Body Connect Forum.

Hello Worried Father,

You just found out your 19-year-old son has AIDS and your first inclination is to throw him out of the house???? WOW. Apparently your moniker, "Worried Father," applies to being worried about everyone (including yourself), but not your son!!! Shame on you, sir.

Is your gay HIV-positive son a danger to you, your wife or your other children? No. HIV is not transmitted by casual contact. No way. No how.

Perhaps the reason your son has been acting strangely is because he has HIV/AIDS and has tragically felt the need to hide this information from you and the rest of his family. Of course, now that I see what your initial reaction is, I understand his desire to keep his diagnosis secret.

I suggest you, your wife and your son sit down and discuss the situation rationally. Family counseling may be very beneficial. Go with your son to his HIV/AIDS specialist physician visits and talk with his doctor. Get involved with your son's life and help support him through this crisis. Turning your back on him now and throwing him out of the house would be both cruel and immoral.

Dr. Bob

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

Thanks for your support!

Hmmm . . . a UK gay actor pianist who appreciates Shaw? Ian? Ian McKellen, is that you? (Loved you in Gods and Monsters. Can't wait to see you in the Da Vinci Code and next X-Men sequel.) Stay well!

Dr. Bob

You said it like it needed to be said....

May 4, 2006

Dear Dr. Bob,

I am a case manager for an ASO serving a rural area in middle America. Yes, I am in the belt buckle of the bible belt. I wanted to offer praise for your response to "Worried Dad". I have seen first hand how families will shut out my clients out of fear and ignorance. My offers to educate family members regarding how HIV is spread and so on often goes without acceptance. I view it simply as many people don't want to know. You keep up the great work and I will do the same. Keep smiling as well. In my area, when people see me smile, they know I am up to something......

Case Manager

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Belt Buckle of the Bible Belt Case Manager,

Thanks for your comments and for doing essential work in one of the areas of the country that is in greatest need. Education and common sense will eventually prevail, even in areas that have been indoctrinated (wrongly) that to believe in a higher power and to think rationally are mutually exclusive. Nothing could be further from the truth. When the Bible Belt realizes that saving lives and helping those in need is more important than feeble attempts to save souls and follow outdated nonsensical doctrine, they will truly understand the message of the higher powers and find purpose for their lives here on planet Earth.

Yes, I'll continue with my efforts as long as I am able. I'm delighted to have you as a colleague.

Stay well.

Dr. Bob



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