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Reged: 06/21/13
Posts: 1
My younger brother was diagnosed yesterday
      #272655 - 06/21/13 12:27 PM

My younger, 18 year old, brother came out several months ago. Since then hes moved out of our parent's place and to the same city as me.

I've played the roll of supportive big brother during his transition, even providing him with a place to stay until he could get a steady job and enroll into the local community college. He wasted no time finding two part-time jobs and getting enrolled. He eventually found his own place and room mate. Hes been doing very well on his own and to say I'm proud is an understatement...

However, I often found it was difficult to balance being supportive vs being an older brother. All of a sudden, hes showing me pictures of guys he thinks are hot, guys hes flirting with on Facebook, twitter, Jackd, <insert social media here>. All of a sudden, hes talking openly about his sex life, what he does at clubs, etc... I finally decided to have "the talk" with him, regarding safe sex and making good decisions. I reminded him that the gay community in our area is much smaller than other places, making it more likely he could contract an STD if he wasn't careful. He assured me hes always used protection and that hes always been smart about it. I felt I did a good job handling the situation, so I left it alone.

Several days ago he came to visit and had been complaining about very swollen lymph nodes in his neck. He made an appointment with a doctor and the results came back yesterday. He called me and confessed that he had been diagnosed with HIV, and that it was likely transmitted sexually. He was very matter-of-fact in our conversation, and couldn't understand why I was so shocked. "Its my body, and life goes on" were the exact words he used. I was told never to tell anyone..Not my wife, our parents, my other siblings, etc..

This mad me angry, and I'm still angry as I type this. I restrained myself and calmly, patiently tried reasoning with him to no avail. I let him know that we are his family and will support him. I told him that his body would also respond better to treatment with a strong support system. The argument always comes back to "its my body and my decision".. He says he would rather die alone than have his family know he contracted an STD. To say I'm angered by this is an understatement..And its not just anger. I'm filled with an overwhelming fear and sadness that's multiplied by the fact that I'm sure hes feeling the same some where deep down. Hes only 18 for God's sake!

I could go on forever about how incredibly selfish, shortsighted, and immature his attitude is. But I really need to know how to handle his decision to keep this from my parents and other siblings..Out of respect for his decision, I haven't told anyone (though my wife is aware something is bothering me). Am I helping or hurting him by keeping this information to myself? I cant help feeling like this whole situation is partly my fault for being to lenient or giving him a place to stay. . Maybe, had I told him what I really thought of his loose lifestyle, he would have thought harder.

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Reged: 05/15/13
Posts: 488
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Re: My younger brother was diagnosed yesterday new
      #272657 - 06/21/13 02:45 PM

I want to address this with you from two points of view, first as a person with HIV and second as a parent.
Understand as an 18 year old set "loose" on the big city with no parents in tow to watch over him, you have become a friend and confidant more then a brother and "parent figure" for him. This is the old cliche of shutting the gate after the cows got out, it's important to support him, his lifestyle and his wishes ... he's the one that has to deal with telling other family. For you, your life and wife is important, ask her if she can handle some news that really doesn't effect you guys directly but is something troubling you and if she can handle it in confidence, then tell her! He needs to know that marriage is a sharing of equals and that it is important if your looking stressed, she knows, it will help! Just to help ease your frustration, it could be possible to also ask him about his doctor (HIV specialist) and go have a talk with him too!
Young people take being gay today alot differently then 20 years ago, it's okay and very open, just make sure you remind him of his new responsibilities, the "rules of HIV", what he does with that information is his own business but all you can do is hope he's not out spreading it around!
Your his only connection to his family and his "new" life, yes it was not fair for him to unload such a topic onto you and say don't tell anyone, but sometimes respect comes in many forms and he respects you!
The best for you now (and maybe your wife too) is to get yourself informed on HIV (being a smaller community does not make it easier to contract an STD or HIV) and just support him in his decisions and life, too late to punish, plus he's a grownup and learning, he now has this for the rest of his life and it's his reponsibility to care for it, properly!
HIV is not a death sentence anymore, he can live his entire life out easily, proper medication, doctors orders and respecting himself are all important.
An 18 year old will always put on a tough face and a gay 18 year old even tougher, he knows deep down what he has but gay and HIV he has to put on two tough acts, just be there for him when he finally crashes.
Start by telling him that you share everything with your wife, once he sees he has the support of her aswell, other family will fall into place. He needs to now know that you respect your wife and you and her are each others support and if he can't handle that he should have never told you! Show that through this respect for people, you respect him and you can't handle this all alone, does not make you less of a person, but shows him, family can be a very strong platform to stand on!
On that same note, having HIV is something you really don't need to disclose to people unless your planning on having a sexual encounter with them or sharing drug needles, he could go for years without ever saying a word.
Finally remember, this is not your fault at all, yes he's young, new city, free to express himself, sexually aware ... there was nothing in all that that has your name on it! Yes he's your little brother and its now that you need to be big brother and just support and help him through, no need to get angry, no need to threaten, just get yourself informed and show him you care and that he's still your little brother!
Keep in mind his "loose lifestyle" is just an 18 year old boy, set free from parents, set free on the big city and set free to be gay ... his decisions lead him down this path where he has to be responsible now. After all he could have been a straight boy and came to tell you he got a girl pregnant (kinda carries the same initial shock)!

anotherday ... in paradise!
daily ponder ... be the reason someone smiles today!

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Reged: 01/15/09
Posts: 14
Loc: San Francisco, CA
Re: My younger brother was diagnosed yesterday new
      #272775 - 06/27/13 08:17 PM

I will second all of the things that adnoctom said. Your wife is a big part of your own support system, and I think you have the right to confide in her, so long as you are confident that she will respect your brother's privacy and will not disclose it further.

But I cannot be more clear that, speaking as a person living with HIV, the decision to disclose further does not belong to either you or your wife. Not now, not ever. That decision belongs to your brother. If someone in whom I had confided my HIV status decided to reveal it to others without my consent, I'd consider that absolutely unforgivable. Your brother may or may not view this as seriously as I do, but again, that's his decision.

Your brother is young and, like many people his age, has made mistakes he may regret some day, but he can't change what has happened. You should encourage him to be more responsible than whoever might have infected him — encourage him to practice safe sex or, at a minimum, disclose his status before any less safe encounters so that future partners will be able to make informed choices about their behavior. And the most important thing your brother can do is to find a good HIV doctor and start on an HIV treatment regimen, both to preserve the state of his own immune system (it's pretty clear now that waiting to start treatment is not a good idea) and to minimize the chance of infecting others. The most dangerous people out there, in terms of spreading HIV, are those HIV+ people who are not being treated, because the amount of virus in their blood will be thousands of times higher than someone I n effective treatment.). Someone on effective therapy is very unlikely to transmit the virus, though it's not impossible.

I wish you and your brother good luck. Since you can't put the genie back in the bottle, try to use this opportunity to bring yourselves closer together rather than pushing him away. I know you're disappointed in some of his choices, with good reason, but he needs you in his life, and I imagine you provide a perspective that he doesn't have and needs to hear.

Becoming HIV positive is not the end of the world these days, and sometimes it can become a catalyst for positive changes (no pun intended) in someone's life. I hope this will ultimately become the case with your brother.

By the way, I think your brother will eventually come around on sharing his status with other family members. He is still coming to terms with things too. Give him some time, it's his choice. Once he is being treated and his virus is being controlled, he may be more willing to let other family members know. I know in my case, I didn't want to tell daily until I could honestly tell them that they didn't need to worry about my health.

Edited by DaveSF (06/27/13 08:22 PM)

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