What started out as a normal day, all changed when I got a text from my best friend that said, “We need to talk”. That was the text that would change our lives.
I met my best friend while in my first semester of college in my English 101 class. He was the first gay person I had ever meet in my life and coming from a Southern Baptist background, he was nothing like what my church said he would be.
On that particular night my best friend asked me if he could come over to my dorm to talk. As he was walking in I laughed at the thought that he was going to show me another pair of heels he had gotten on sale from Steve Madden or that he finally had a boyfreind. Instead, he broke down in front of me and cried for what felt like hours. He finally croaked, “I am HIV positive”. His face full or fear and tears, mine face confused and puzzled not knowing what to do or say, I simply put my arms around him and said, “It’ll be okay”.
As an ally to the LGBT community who has never dealt with this certain situation before, this is what I learned and want to share with everyone.
- Don’t say things like, “Didn’t you know to use condoms? Who gave it to you? I know how you feel. I got herpes last year.” This adds salt to the wound and if they trusted you enough to confess to you their situation just show your support. You don’t even know how they got HIV because it is not always through sex. People can also get HIV from sharing needles, blood transfusions, or from their mother’s during birth, so it’s important not to jump to conclusions so quickly. Condoms are great at protecting someone against HIV, but they’re not 100% effective. My friend, for instance, could have been as careful as humanly possible but still, unfortunately, contracted HIV. Say things like “I am so sorry. I know that is the worst thing you can hear from a doctor” or “Is there anything I can do for you?” Listening and talking about this is important to show them that you see them as the same person and that they are more than their diagnosis.
- Learn and educate not only yourself about the disease but also others. What it is, how it is transmitted, how it is treated, and how people can stay healthy while living with HIV. Having a solid understanding of HIV is a big step forward in supporting your loved one. Knowledge is empowering, but keep in mind that may not want this information right away. Take it day by day.
- Encourage treatment as soon as possible. People who are just recently diagnosed can find it hard to take the first step to seek treatment because they can sometimes isolate themselves. Your support and assistance will deffinatly be helpful to break down the wall and push them to seek help. By finding the proper methods to treat HIV and preventing the disease from progressing into AIDS, people with HIV can live normal lives. I am thankful that my best friend was willing to confess this to me because I could help him find the proper resources to help him. Encourage your friends or loved one to see a doctor and start HIV treatment as soon as possible.
- Remember that you as well will need support to help your family member and/or friend. Turn to others for any questions, concerns, or doubts you may have so that the person who is diagnosed can focus on taking care of their own health. When my friend got HIV, I got tested, because this disease does not discriminate. I came back negative and the doctor recommended me to get on PreP, a medicine for people who do not have HIV but who are at substantial risk to prevent infection.
- Things might be hard, but remember to keep it real, but keep it positive. It can help to talk about the future and to make plans in a realistic, compassionate way. Don’t shrug off your friend’s fears or concerns about things like medication, nutrition, sex, marriage, illness, or even death. Instead, try to offer realistic, specific examples of people who are living with HIV.
More than 1 million people in the United States have HIV. Know that you are not alone! Scientific breakthroughs have been made for HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV. Despite this, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition. This happened years ago, now my friend is doing great and is in a relationship!
Submitted by Anonymous