This is an excerpt from
There is Hope: Learning to Live with HIV, 2nd
Edition, written by Janice Ferri, with Richard R. Roose and Jill Schwendeman, a
publication of The HIV Coalition.
I think a good time to tell my son about my HIV would
be when I got sick and
knew I only had a few years left. He's 9, he couldn't handle it now. He's the
type of kid that during the Iraqi War, he was just waiting for Iraq to bomb
us. So when he worries about something, he worries and worries and worries
and worries and worries. He already worries about me, he's always asking how
I'm feeling. Maybe that's because his father already died. And we're real
close. I think telling him would affect his schoolwork. I don't think I'd
want to tell him alone, either.
Telling my 8-year-old boy I was HIV-positive
was pretty simple, because we
already knew a lot of people who had AIDS. My best friend had died of it.
Also, he pays attention, even when you think he's not, so he knows stuff.
He's negative, thank God. It took me awhile to get him tested, because I
knew it was possible he might be infected, and I was afraid. That had to be
the hardest thing I've ever done. I never told him what I was having him
Sometimes parents don't want to tell their kids
that they, the children, are
infected. We have to follow the parents' wishes and not disclose to the kids
if they don't want us to. Still, kids wonder why they're coming to the clinic
all the time, and seeing people get sick. They can't go to camps or special
outings for HIV-affected families because the parents are afraid they'll find
out. They miss out on a lot if the parents won't let them know or talk about
-- Annie Martin, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Cook County Women and Children's HIV Program
My son's only 3. He knows he gets infusions
and medications, but I don't
think he's old enough to know what all that means. I'm sure he's not old
enough to use discretion. I don't want him walking down the street saying,
"Look, I'm HIV."
I'm not sure when I'll tell him he's infected. It just depends on when I
think he'll understand. Or maybe it'll be when he really bleeds for the first
time. Maybe I'll say, "See how you're bleeding here? Don't let anyone touch
you except Mommy or Daddy, or someone with gloves."
Don't rush into telling a lot of people. You
need to find someone you trust
who will have your best interests in mind. Think about the people in your
life. Who can provide care and affection? Who has been there for you in the
past? It should be someone you feel comfortable being with and talking to.
You don't want to exclude your friends, but think about how they treat you.
Do they call you names or treat you badly in any way? Then they are not
someone you'll want to tell.
-- Felicia Rodriguez, Director of Adolescent Education, Cook County Hospital,
Women and Children's AIDS Project
Adults probably understand more than teens
do. For teens, it's harder to learn about stuff. That's one reason I haven't told
nobody about my HIV. My mom has told some of the family, but that's about
it. She told me it's important to keep it quiet.
-- "Al" (age 13)