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Sister is stuck with secret
Jul 17, 1997

I just found out from my mother that my brother is HIV positive. I knew he was gay, so that part wasn't a shock. My brother told my mother in utmost confidence (which I do not believe was quite fair- my mother is very weak emotionally and I would certainly think he wouldn't leave her in that situation.) My parents are recently divorced and I and my husband live with my father. So here I am stuck with this secret. It is not fair to my brother or my father that I tell him. I have told my husband, but this situation is very difficult - though I'm sure not as difficult as the one my brother faces. I realize my brother is the victim here, but my problem is do I tell my brother I know? How am I supposed to react when he tells me? I really wish he would have told the family together so that we could deal with it as a family. Please help. I have very strong faith in GOD and I believe with all my heart that my faith will pull me through this, but I feel extremely torn. I understand why he didn't tell us (he's known for a year), but how am I supposed to deal with this? I really want to call my brother and talk to him, but I know that will create a lot of anger. Actually, I would think that he is smart enough to know that my mom would tell me. Maybe that is what he wanted? I am so confused. Please guide me through this difficult time.

Response from Rev. Pieters

I always believe that honesty and openness is the best policy. It is not your place to tell others about your brother's diagnosis. That is his business. But now that you know, I believe you could let your brother know that you know, in person if at all possible, if you are prepared to talk with him with hope and a positive attitude.

Maybe he was hoping that your mother would tell others, and spare him the task of dealing with everyone's reactions. Maybe he's just stalling telling you because of his own fears of how you and others may react.

I hope that when you do talk with him about this, you will approach the discussion with a positive, non-judgmental attitude, ready to give him hope as well as support and love. Many people with HIV are living long, healthy lives today with recent advances in treatments. Print out some of my columns here on living with HIV with hope, as well as my pamphlets, "Choose Life," "Spiritual Strength for Survival," and "So You're Going to Live," and offer them to him.

He may be afraid that you will react judgmentally, or with a very pessimistic attitude. Educate yourself about life with HIV in the 1990's by reading my articles and many others available here at The Body. One of the greatest gifts you can give him is your unconditional love, supported by your knowledge of the facts about life with HIV.



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