When I was young, I can remember my aunt going through a sickness none of us kids understood. No one told us not to do this or that concerning her, so we treated her with much love and care. We did not understand at that time that her health condition was, to others, something that sometimes breaks families apart and makes your friends treat you like a walking contagion. We did not treat my aunt that way and I would like to feel that I was allowed to form a better relationship with her through that time.
When speaking to my mother about this, she mentioned that it was very important for us, as a family, to be there for her. It was a big transition not just for her but for the entire family, and the way my aunt viewed life would change. We didn’t want her to feel like we had abandoned her or were walking on eggshells around her. So, instead of pushing her away with the stigma of what other people in the ’90’s thought about having HIV, we chose to draw her closer.
As a kid, that was my view of a person living with HIV, and how I, and my family, supported our loved one through that situation. We laughed with her more, made sure she rarely had to cry alone, and showed our love and support in more ways than one. I believe we celebrate her life every time we educate another through her story.
I feel that a person living with HIV only wants their family and friends to have the opportunity to understand their health condition and help them be strong along the way. No one wants to go through anything in life alone. No matter the diagnosis, your loved ones deserve to have someone to lean on.
So, in response to the question of how you can support someone that has just been told they have an HIV diagnosis, the first thing I would suggest you ask is, “Are you ok?” Not just physically, but ask about their mental health and take notice of their emotional state, as well. The second thing, depending on the nature of the relationship, would be to get the information/facts in order to support them properly. As a child, I didn’t know it, but my family took the time and educated themselves, making sure we were all safe. Just love them! I believe that’s a major aspect of understanding what’s going on with them. Make sure they know you’re there and they can come to you if need be.
To sum this up, I want to say, “BE PRESENT. EDUCATE YOURSELVES and SHOW LOVE! Your family/friends are still the same people. HIV DOES NOT DEFINE THEM.”
Guest Contributor – Love