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Telling Others You're HIV Positive: How'd You Do It?

Telling Others You're HIV Positive: How'd You Do It?

For many gay men who have gone through the process of coming out as gay to themselves, their families and loved ones, telling others they're HIV positive is like coming out all over again. Read stories and tips from HIV-positive gay men who've grappled with the question: How Do You Decide When to Share With Others That You're HIV Positive?


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Joe Ohmer

Joe Ohmer, Bronx, N.Y.; Diagnosed in 2002

I feel like, if someone cannot accept me for who I am, my issues that affect me, then they're not worth having in my life. Mind you, I don't go down the street, meet somebody and say, "Hey, what have you got in the paper there? I'm HIV positive." No, it's not like that. But certainly, if it's somebody I'm thinking about having sex with, before that even comes to issue, they need to know that I'm HIV positive, so if they want to run away, they can, because I don't want the running away part to be just as we're getting intimate. I don't want to have to tell them after the fact, and them to get all hurt and afraid -- because there's still a lot of fear out there.

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Jahlove Serrano

Jahlove Serrano, New York City; Diagnosed in 2005

That's a funny topic within itself. It's on a need-to-know basis. You can't just disclose right then and there. You have to feel people out. That's what I do. I feel people out. I get to a point where I'll be like, "You know what? It's time to disclose" -- as far as for my sake. Not for them, but for me, so I can know how to handle all situations, because I like to be prepared.

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Rafael Abadia

Rafael Abadia, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Diagnosed in 1993

I couldn't tell my parents over the phone. I knew I had to fly to Puerto Rico and let them know.

So I had to prepare myself mentally for that. So that's what I did.

I flew to Puerto Rico. I had lost a lot of weight, so I made sure to wear a lot of baggy clothes to try to cover my illness. I was really concerned about how they were going to take it. They're extremely religious, Christian fundamentalists, so I knew that was an issue. It was an issue of me being gay. I didn't know what to expect. I prepared myself mentally, just in case I was going to get some rejection.

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Ahmad Salcido

Ahmad Salcido, San Francisco; Diagnosed in September 2007

The first person I told I was positive was my best friend Ramsey, who lives in San Francisco and who is the one that extended his hand to me and said, "Look, I live in San Francisco. San Francisco has these great agencies, has this great program for gay and HIV-positive people, so you're more than welcome to come over."

It turned out well. He was the right person. You picked the right person.

Exactly! I've known my friend for five years and I told him, "You're like my little angel, you know?"

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Roger Solar

Roger Solar, San Antonio; Diagnosed in 1999

I think you have to be honest with yourself first. You have to look around as to who you're surrounding yourself with.

If you surround yourself with real friends, your family who really loves you -- or you hope loves you -- you can be yourself and be honest.

You are going to have to build that little wall up because you know you're going to have one or two people who come out and turn their back on you. That hurts more than them making fun of you; the fact that they drop you and don't talk to you hurts more than anything.

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Robert Mintz

Robert Mintz, Kansas City, Mo.; Diagnosed in the mid-1980s

My relatives are 100 percent behind me -- they want to be educated.

I want to say something about my parents. Concerning my sexual orientation, when I came home from Vietnam and decided I had to come out to my father, I was scared of how he'd respond. I took him to a park, because then if he was going to do anything he'd have to do it in public, you know? Before I even opened my mouth, he said, "Son, God gave you to me, and nothing's gonna take you away from me." I told him, "Your son's gay," and he said, "Your point is?"

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James Nicacio

James Nicacio, Selma, Calif.; Diagnosed in October 2001

I know my biggest fear was telling my mother. My mother and my sisters are the ones who have been so close to me.

They're my support system. They always want the best for me, so it was really difficult for me to tell them. But when I did, it felt like a big relief. I felt like, in some way, I was letting them down. Here I am trying to tell my mother -- the person who gave me life -- that, because of some of the bad choices and bad mistakes that I made in the past, my life might be taken. In a way, taking life for granted.

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Keith Green

Keith Green, Chicago; Diagnosed in March 1994

My relationships with my family and friends have greatly improved since I was diagnosed.

There is a greater level of honesty and openness. When I was forced to have a dialogue about my HIV status, everything else became, like, nothing. Sexuality, whatever, you know. I have really seen that I do have people in my life who love me unconditionally, and I think that has been the thing that has kept me alive.

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Brian Datcher

Brian Datcher, New Haven, Conn.; Diagnosed in 1996

It's a tricky thing. When it comes to me professionally disclosing, I don't have any problem with that at all.

When it comes to being intimate with someone and intimate issues, that tends to be a little sticky. Sometimes there are people that you meet that you may have feelings for or emotions. They may not be HIV positive, but they're not asking the right questions, so I like to be honest with myself. I like to let people know what they're getting into.

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David Garner

David Garner, Houston; Diagnosed in 1993

My rule once I became HIV positive was that I said, "Before we get naked, I'm going to tell you."

That was just my rule of thumb. I chose to bring it up in conversation some kind of way along the way. I kind of let them decide to do whatever they felt like they needed to do. I got turned down sometimes. A lot of times I got rejected. But at no time, thankfully, did I experience any violence.

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Bishop Kwabena Rainey Cheeks

Bishop Kwabena Rainey Cheeks, Washington, D.C.; Diagnosed in 1985

My relationships are good. I didn't hide anything. I told them when I found out, when I was in the hospital.

It's important to build a support system around you before you get sick. If you got sick right now, you should know you could call one person, and they know everybody to call.

Don't assume family and friends will not love you. Most of the time, you will be quite surprised -- they come around and are there for you. If they're not, it's better to find out while you're healthy than when you're ill. I tell people, "Take the power out of a secret: Tell it."

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