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I regret revealing my status to family
Jul 8, 2012

I feel this is almost too complicated to ask a question on. But...I was diagnosed 2 years ago when I was 19, and outright avoided telling anyone in my Mormon family that I was HIV positive. Earlier this year, I started to get very sick, and had pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia, and since then Ive had many other problems, and that put me into the painful position of telling my mother and my sister that I had HIV.

I now regret ever telling them. They have since told everyone in my family without my permission, as well as their friends. There are people Ive never met who know I have it. My mothers boss knows, my VERY Mormon grandmother knows. I feel like I have absolutely no privacy.

Ive tried talking to them about this, but the response I get is So you want me to keep this to myself? How am I supposed to deal? They twist the entire conversation so they make it look like Im hurting them, and I did this to them, and its all about them. Apparently Im the selfish one. Ive tried giving them information, showing them websites and groups they could go to, but they dont listen. They think telling other people is what makes it better.

Im not sure what to say or do anymore. Everyone knows my business, and its making me severely depressed. I havent found much information, or people who regret revealing their status to family, but it hasnt been as freeing for me as it has for some. I completely regret revealing my status to them, and I really wish I could take it back but I cant. This is 10 times worse than when I came out, and I wont go into detail about that mess.

Do you have any advice to give? Is there anything I can do? Anything I can read or things that might help? I understand this may not be the right place to ask these questions, but I dont know where else to start.

Thank you.

Response from Dr. Wohl

This is very unfortunate and it is sad that your family has reacted this way. From their perspective they likely do see this as an issue that on the one hand causes them pain (as they care about you) but that they also are dealing with it the way they deal with many other problems - in a group. Their own needs have indeed superseded your needs and that is why you are miserable.

A first step may be to see they are not doing this to hurt you but that this is how they deal. Next, is for you to try and let go of some of your own shame. Perhaps it is too early but you may eventually be able to embrace being gay and being HIV+. As you can read widely on the web, many describe how their infection with HIV was from an attempt to be close to another person. Your family may not accept your vision of love but that is not your problem, it is theirs. Letting go of your shame will empower you and help you to be who you are.

Lastly, do not let the reaction of others literally make you sick. Avoiding care or not taking care of yourself may be a result of your self-denial. You need to partner with a skilled HIV health care provider and get on a plan that helps you regain your strength and health. They can also help you get the counseling you need to assist you with the things I mentioned above. At this point, you alone have the power to make yourself whole and well.

DW



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