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Author Topic: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing  (Read 5838 times)

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Offline SurferJosh

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The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« on: March 18, 2012, 10:39:14 AM »
Hi new member here. A close family member came out to me as Poz, and at the same revealed his long standing Crystal meth and wild sex habits. My initial reaction was anger. I felt upset that he had ignored all those subway posters etc. etc.  It also shattered my middle class bubble of "those sorts of things don't happen to college educated people".  In our discussions he waivers between, "I knew what i was doing and I was prepared for the consequences" vs. "Why aren't you sympathetic, since I'm a victim". He maintains this detatched bravado of using his status to shock people, but is upset that my reaction to his status was not "perfect". In his mind I was supposed to be fully accepting and understanding. I can't detatch the drugs from the HIV. I tell myself I would have an easier time with his status if he had been " lied to" etc. I know the feeling today is that you're not supposed to judge. But I'm human, so I do... Looking for some thoughtful ideas how others worked through these issues. Not condemnation...

Offline Jeff G

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2012, 11:37:20 AM »
Hi Josh ... Drug addiction and HIV sometime go hand in hand . As a former addict I understand some people will never be able to understand why I put myself through all the things I did so I first had to forgive myself . At one point I chose to do drugs but I never remember choosing to become an addict or HIV positive . It was a mistake .

No one deserves Aids no matter how they contracted the virus , if you cant come to terms with it maybe you are not meant to be the one to support your friend and he can get it elsewhere .

Offline mecch

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2012, 11:46:37 AM »
This person may not have wanted to get HIV.  He certainly saw all the same safesex campaigns as you have.  And now he had it.   

You can keep, if you want, your judgement about what you consider his poor sex choices and resulting infection.  But that is water under the bridge.  You might ask him what he expects from you, regarding these revelations that shock you - hiv, drug use, and wild sex.   And respond if you can or cannot offer what he wants. 

Regarding HIV, or dugs, maybe he just wants people to know. Including you. 

It's a virus one carries for life and going forward there are some serious decisions to be made and if he is reasonable then it doesn't necessarily have to be a catastrophe.

Now about the way he got it.  If you are worried about his drug use, then just put your two cents in about that, and see what reaction you get.  Here you are judging two things - "drug use" and "getting HIV from sex".  Why are you "angry" someone takes Meth?  Does it impact you somehow?  His loved ones?  Or just himself?  Does he express any wish for an intervention on this point?  Also, you seem to have a problem with "wild sex".  What's it to you?

The biggest challenge is for you to drop this idea that there are better and worse ways, in your opinion, about getting infected with HIV. 

If you do not consider him a victim, then I can see your point. Its a valid view. But you don't need to layer judgments or anger on this.  It could be a bit cooler and intellectual.

I am writing to you from the other world, the world of HIV+ people.  There is a bit of consensus that the way to living well with HIV includes the idea that the way we got HIV really doesn't matter all that much to other people, to each other.  I mean a few people do feel they got it from bad choices and a few others feel they got it through drug abuse, but its up to that individual person to do what he wants with that self assessment.

You can express your anger and disappointment and shock once or twice but after that you can just drop it and instead, practice active listening and when he tells you things, your first response can be along the lines of "and how does that make you feel"? or "what are you going to do"? or "gee that must be difficult" or "wow i can see you are strong" (a few encouraging comments or some ego boosting never hurt ANYONE)

And also "is there something I can do to help"?  And from now on keep your judgements about drugs and sex and HIV positivity to yourself because they aren't constructive in the life of your family member dealing with these things.





“From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need” 1875 K Marx

Offline emeraldize

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2012, 01:02:41 PM »
Hi Josh,

Couple of thoughts. You note he's a close family member and close enough that he chose you to come out to as poz. I would go with one portion of Mecch's post   "You might ask him what he expects from you.."'

Since it is apparent he has a preconceived notion of how THE news should go down and be received, he may have an answer regarding his expectations.  It might range from nothing, to support, to listening when he's down, whatever.

If you want to provide what he expects, then do so. If not, be clear and respectful and keep the door open. He's figuring out his way through this and it can have some awkward moments.

Best,
Em

Offline forrest

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2012, 07:59:35 PM »
Hey Josh

I'm new to this forum and also newly diagnosed myself. I'm trying to come to terms with it all in my own world, but reading your post... wanted to respond.

I would assume you probably feel pissed at your family member... like how in the world did he do this... being upset could be from caring about him.  I can get that and understand that. I think to myself... how would my cousin (who I am close to) feel if he knew about me... he may be pissed at me.. I dunno.  But... please keep something in mind... :)  your family member is going through a lot right now... there is a LOT to come to terms with in regards to HIV.  For me, a lot of dreams have been crashing down... he could be facing the same.  I just hope that you are able to dig deep and just be there for him right now - he needs it. 

He needs  to know that you care about him.  Yeah, you may not agree with it all.. he made some bad choices... but then again, don't we all?  You, I am sure, have made some crappy choices in life as well... ones that maybe he wouldn't agree with... but we all have things that we do that we regret.  I just hope that you can be there for him and put those aside for now.  There is just a whole freaking ball of things (emotions, thoughts, etc.) that come with a HIV+ diagnosis... and I would say for a majority (I am not sure) it's a huge mental blow.  Putting too much on him could push him over the edge (you don't know)... please don't mistakenly do that... where he could hurt himself.  Just sayin' - again, just be there. Be his friend. Be accepting even though you may not agree and are pissed - those feelings can be addressed too at some point  :) 

I agree with Mecch and Em about asking him... what do you want from me?  What type of support do you want? 

Anyway... just a different thought from someone who is newly diagnosed, struggling with telling people, coming to terms with it all.. and also pretty down about it all.  All I want from those I tell is for them to still love me.  To accept me. To be there for me as I process all this crap.  You guys have been close... please don't lose that. He needs you more now than ever I'd say.  Be his friend... listen. And love. 

Peace.
2011-03-26:  Tested Positive

Date           |VL        |CD4 |4%  |CD8 |8%  |C4:C8
2011-04-06 |48,653 |603 |32.0 |646 |35.0 |0.61
2011-05-23 |64,324 |577 |36.0 |576 |36.0 |1.00
2011-08-02 |18,319 |574 |36.3 |587 |37.2 |0.98
2011-12-06 |10,375 |480 |30.1 |616 |38.7 |0.78
2012-02-22 |  9,674 |570 |33.6 |655 |38.7 |0.87
2012-05-04 |  8,439 |559 |30.4 |706 |38.4 |0.79

Offline forrest

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2012, 09:26:11 PM »
To add... personally, I think it's cool that you (Josh) sought out this site and even created an account to seek for help for your family member - very cool.  I am envious of your family member.  Nice job!
2011-03-26:  Tested Positive

Date           |VL        |CD4 |4%  |CD8 |8%  |C4:C8
2011-04-06 |48,653 |603 |32.0 |646 |35.0 |0.61
2011-05-23 |64,324 |577 |36.0 |576 |36.0 |1.00
2011-08-02 |18,319 |574 |36.3 |587 |37.2 |0.98
2011-12-06 |10,375 |480 |30.1 |616 |38.7 |0.78
2012-02-22 |  9,674 |570 |33.6 |655 |38.7 |0.87
2012-05-04 |  8,439 |559 |30.4 |706 |38.4 |0.79

Offline SurferJosh

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2012, 11:33:57 PM »
Thanks everyone for the thoughtful answers! A lot of really good ideas. The responses helped me appreciate some of the peculiarities of my family dynamic. I always assumed that everyone came from a family where everyone stuck their nose in everyone's business. It's quite a shock to learn as an adult that people don't always care for your unsolicited opinions... I'm learning that when someone tells your they are poz, it's not an invitation to give a stream of consciousness monologue on what they did wrong in their life. That might seem obvious, but in my upringing the culture has always been peer and family pressure to behave in a certain way. Usually it pushes people to aim high and succeed.  But It doesn't always work, and there are definite casualties in my family of people who don't talk because someone married someone "not good enough" etc.

Offline emeraldize

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2012, 08:02:21 AM »
Hey Josh,

Very nice note. Regarding your family way -- "Usually it pushes people to aim high and succeed." It seems you realize with the word 'casualties' that it can have the reverse effect of such scrutiny and expectations on a non-Type A or someone who is sensitive or comes out of the box Gay. They could never be good enough, could they? 

You know differently and could start a new generational wave of acceptance in your family tree.

Em
« Last Edit: March 19, 2012, 08:05:16 AM by emeraldize »

Offline forrest

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2012, 10:19:52 PM »
Hey Josh - just wondering how things were going with your family member? Have you guys talked any more? Was he able to tell you the type of support he needs?  Hope all is going well with him.  :)
2011-03-26:  Tested Positive

Date           |VL        |CD4 |4%  |CD8 |8%  |C4:C8
2011-04-06 |48,653 |603 |32.0 |646 |35.0 |0.61
2011-05-23 |64,324 |577 |36.0 |576 |36.0 |1.00
2011-08-02 |18,319 |574 |36.3 |587 |37.2 |0.98
2011-12-06 |10,375 |480 |30.1 |616 |38.7 |0.78
2012-02-22 |  9,674 |570 |33.6 |655 |38.7 |0.87
2012-05-04 |  8,439 |559 |30.4 |706 |38.4 |0.79

Offline SurferJosh

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2012, 11:58:09 PM »
Hey Josh - just wondering how things were going with your family member? Have you guys talked any more? Was he able to tell you the type of support he needs?  Hope all is going well with him.  :)

Sorry I've been AWOL... Busy with work but also been reading other posts and getting a sense of the forum... Surprised by the hands-off attitude in the forum about issues of disclosure, testing etc.   One message that was especially hard for me on these boards was a comment "You're not the HIV police" in response to a question if someone should disclose another person's status to a 3rd party who had a crush on the poz person. I was like, of course tell him!  Screw privacy... Anything is worth it if you can help someone not get infected. Sadly I think others here don't share my opinions. Therein lies my sadness overwhat I view as my failure to stop my brother from getting HIV. I wish I would have known what was going on, thinking that maybe I could have stopped it from happening. His attitude has been, that it's not my fault, but I haven't been the most supportive. I'm still trying to undersand what happened, which comes off to him as intrusive probing.

Offline Buckmark

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2012, 11:27:31 AM »
"You're not the HIV police"

I believe that was my response in that thread and I stand by it. 

Quote
Screw privacy... Anything is worth it if you can help someone not get infected.

Sounds like you are ready to sign up for the HIV Patrol.  ::)  You better be darn sure you have your facts in line before you go disclosing people's health issues to others.  You could end up in a fist fight, or in a lawsuit. 

Why the need to meddle in other people's business?  And, where does your "screw privacy" policy stop?

Quote
Therein lies my sadness overwhat I view as my failure to stop my brother from getting HIV. I wish I would have known what was going on, thinking that maybe I could have stopped it from happening.

While I am sorry that your brother became infected with HIV, it was *not* your responsibility to stop him from getting it.  Everyone needs to take responsibility for his or her own sexual health. 

What other things in your brother's life are you responsible for?  It shound like you have co-dependency issues with your brother that you need to explore.

Quote
I tell myself I would have an easier time with his status if he had been " lied to" etc. I know the feeling today is that you're not supposed to judge.

Given what you state here, it looks like you are just looking for someone to blame for your brother's HIV infection, other than your brother.

Again, I'm sorry your brother became infected.  The best thing you can do now is be supportive of him getting treatment, for both HIV and his meth addiction. 

Regards,

Henry
"Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things:
     One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in hell.
     The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love."
- Butch Hancock, Musician, The Flatlanders

Offline Jeff G

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2012, 11:51:29 AM »
Hi Josh ... will you be warning people your brother may want to date he has HIV ?

As I advised before there is nothing that is written that obligates you to be supportive and non judgmental about other peoples lives but you can choose to get out of the way so that someone who does have those qualities can offer genuine non judgmental support to your brother .

Offline Rev. Moon

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2012, 01:40:26 PM »
Sorry I've been AWOL... Busy with work but also been reading other posts and getting a sense of the forum... Surprised by the hands-off attitude in the forum about issues of disclosure, testing etc.   One message that was especially hard for me on these boards was a comment "You're not the HIV police" in response to a question if someone should disclose another person's status to a 3rd party who had a crush on the poz person. I was like, of course tell him!  Screw privacy... Anything is worth it if you can help someone not get infected. Sadly I think others here don't share my opinions. Therein lies my sadness overwhat I view as my failure to stop my brother from getting HIV. I wish I would have known what was going on, thinking that maybe I could have stopped it from happening. His attitude has been, that it's not my fault, but I haven't been the most supportive. I'm still trying to undersand what happened, which comes off to him as intrusive probing.

Make sure to download my 'Typhoid Mary: Report a Pozzie' app. It is fabulous and all proceeds go to HIV prevention.

Now, I am an openly poz person, but if you were to tell anyone out there about my status without my consent you can count on me finding a way to sue you.  This is one thing that I am very touchy about (it is my business to share whenever and to whomever I feel like).  I'm sure that your brother would love for you to tell the world about his HIV.

HIV is something that is acquired when you consent, as an adult with free will, to have unprotected sex (I am not talking here about intravenous drug use or mother to child transmissions). Yes, people need to disclose their known status to their sexual partners, but the main responsibility lies in the hands of the person who wants to remain negative.

In order for you to properly support your sibling you will need to understand that his current situation is the result of choices that he made. Do not judge his actions; it is human nature to make mistakes.  He has trusted you with a very important aspect of his present life; do not dwell on the things he may have done in the past.  Do not blame him (or assume that whoever it was that he contracted this virus from intended to infect him); be there for him and support him.
"I have tried hard--but life is difficult, and I am a very useless person. I can hardly be said to have an independent existence. I was just a screw or a cog in the great machine I called life, and when I dropped out of it I found I was of no use anywhere else."

Offline drewm

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2012, 01:51:34 PM »
Josh you lost me with the whole "pozzie patrol" thing. It's really noneya business when it comes to disclosing anyone else's HIV status.
MAY 2010
VL>500,000 CD4>8

JUNE 2010 STARTED ATRIPLA

DEC 2010
VL>30 CD4>323

Atripla. Valtrex, Trilipix, Fluoxotine

Offline jkinatl2

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2012, 04:41:32 PM »


Sounds like you are ready to sign up for the HIV Patrol.  ::)  You better be darn sure you have your facts in line before you go disclosing people's health issues to others.  You could end up in a fist fight, or in a lawsuit. 

Why the need to meddle in other people's business?  And, where does your "screw privacy" policy stop?


With this, I must remind people that this is a searchable public forum. There will be people who peruse this site, and can find with relative ease personal and identifying information about someone - and use that under the anonymity of the internet to do vast amounts of harm.

Please remember that when you post here. Not everyone is friendly, nor supportive.

"Many people, especially in the gay community, turn to oral sex as a safer alternative in the age of AIDS. And with HIV rates rising, people need to remember that oral sex is safer sex. It's a reasonable alternative."

-Kimberly Page-Shafer, PhD, MPH

Welcome Thread

Offline sshortguy1

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #15 on: May 02, 2012, 05:39:18 PM »
isn't that the truth jk

Offline jkinatl2

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #16 on: May 02, 2012, 06:04:35 PM »
isn't that the truth jk

Wish it wasn't. And I will go down fighting to defend it's right to be the support site it deserves to be. People deserve better than to be assailed with harsh judgment, further stigma, or bad science when they need the exact opposite.

Thanks for having my back :)
"Many people, especially in the gay community, turn to oral sex as a safer alternative in the age of AIDS. And with HIV rates rising, people need to remember that oral sex is safer sex. It's a reasonable alternative."

-Kimberly Page-Shafer, PhD, MPH

Welcome Thread

Offline SurferJosh

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #17 on: May 02, 2012, 11:22:10 PM »
...  if you were to tell anyone out there about my status without my consent you can count on me finding a way to sue you.

Ouch!... Not directly related to disclosure to help someone avoid infection, but my brother was similarly adamant that I could not tell anyone, although he thankfully didn't use make-believe legal threats :) My stress over the past few months has been feeling alone and isolated with the burden of his secret. He has behaved erratically, and when asked by other family members, I have been forced to cover for him. His pressure tactics have been that he would "not be able to handle life" if others in our family knew. This degraded to a conflict where I was threatening to disclose everything if he didn't stop using destructive drugs. Admittedly not a healthy situation... It's been difficult to find good advice. Everyone is very polarized....

Offline Rev. Moon

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #18 on: May 03, 2012, 12:25:10 AM »
Ouch!... Not directly related to disclosure to help someone avoid infection, but my brother was similarly adamant that I could not tell anyone, although he thankfully didn't use make-believe legal threats :) My stress over the past few months has been feeling alone and isolated with the burden of his secret. He has behaved erratically, and when asked by other family members, I have been forced to cover for him. His pressure tactics have been that he would "not be able to handle life" if others in our family knew. This degraded to a conflict where I was threatening to disclose everything if he didn't stop using destructive drugs. Admittedly not a healthy situation... It's been difficult to find good advice. Everyone is very polarized....


Josh, my point is that you need to respect other people's right to privacy.  I know that you care about your brother, but you are making this all about yourself. 

Who cares if you are "alone with the burden of this secret"?  You are not the one living with the virus.  You're not the one who at some point will need to take meds for the rest of his life.  You're not the one who's going to be stigmatized by ignorant segments of society.  You're not the one who will have to worry about issues related to disclosure, protecting any negative partners, and coming to terms with an infection that could have serious repercussions on your health. 

Your brother opened up to you because he felt that you were important enough to know about this aspect of his existence.  Keep in mind that not everyone deals with HIV the same way. Some of us are tough and move on, others harbor feelings of guilt and shame.  You kneed to know where your brother stands and be there when and if he needs you.  You may offer advice and support, but you cannot force him to make changes that you believe to be necessary.

Moreover, you cannot expect your brother to continue to trust you if you threaten to out him to other family members. It is his right to decide whom he's going to tell, when, and how.  Have you stopped to analyze and consider how other relatives might treat him if they were to know about his status?  Would they be supportive?  Would they reject him?  Would he be told to stay away because he "brought this on himself"?

Again, you need to make this more about him and less about you.

With that said, I'm outta this thread.  This is not really the sort of argument that I usually join.
"I have tried hard--but life is difficult, and I am a very useless person. I can hardly be said to have an independent existence. I was just a screw or a cog in the great machine I called life, and when I dropped out of it I found I was of no use anywhere else."

Offline mecch

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #19 on: May 03, 2012, 06:41:37 AM »
Ouch!... Not directly related to disclosure to help someone avoid infection, but my brother was similarly adamant that I could not tell anyone, although he thankfully didn't use make-believe legal threats :) My stress over the past few months has been feeling alone and isolated with the burden of his secret. He has behaved erratically, and when asked by other family members, I have been forced to cover for him. His pressure tactics have been that he would "not be able to handle life" if others in our family knew. This degraded to a conflict where I was threatening to disclose everything if he didn't stop using destructive drugs. Admittedly not a healthy situation... It's been difficult to find good advice. Everyone is very polarized....

Josh, yes, I hear you that you feel his disclosure to you is a burden.  You see, for the both of you, HIV is shrouded in secrecy, shame, fear, and ignorance.

Maybe if we know a bit more about your brother and your family's situation we could understand how much an HIV diagnosis is or is not a HUGE trauma and tragedy for your brother, and by extension, you and your family. 

There are plenty of HIV+ people who feel no SHAME.  Little fear about living with HIV.  Who know what they need to know about living with HIV.   Secrets are necessary for some people, not for others. 

For the time being, your brother told just you. 

The first things you can do to really support your brother are

1) learn that HIV is just a virus, has no MORALITY in itself. Every different kind of person in this world has been infected with this virus and you can make NO generalisations about who gets it and why. 

2) You must TRASH every single one of your judgements or worries or questions about who is to "BLAME" (you? him? drugs? family? society?) for his seroconversion, because ITS A DONE DEAL.  And it doesn't matter to you now, nor to him.  Nor to anyone of us here in the forum.  It doesn't mean jack for his current health and future prospects.

3)  You can learn that HIV is a manageable condition and what he needs is regular health checkups, labs, and lifetime HAART when it is time to start HAART.  So the practical and helpful think now is to make sure your brother is financially able to afford the observation and treatment for his manageable condition.

If ANYONE including your brother, your family, society, your self, starts wondering about morals, and blaming, sexual practices, orientation, gods will, etc etc. , rather than just treating the nasty virus, these are futile path.  DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME, energy, good feelings, and money. 

HIV is a completely treatable disease and the principal challenge in the world today is preventing people from getting it and getting all people who have it access to appropriate treatment. If you want to get involved emotionally or politically, the only useful path is to FIGHT for equal rights, against discrimination, and help decrease stigma against HIV+ people.

To a world where no secrets are required.  No shame. No blame.   People have sex. Some people who have sex fuck up (one way or another) and get HIV - an STD, which is fatal, or completely treatable.   

« Last Edit: May 03, 2012, 06:48:14 AM by mecch »
“From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need” 1875 K Marx

Offline mecch

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #20 on: May 03, 2012, 06:43:00 AM »
Please refuse to be part of the society that builds, maintains, and defends stigma, ignorance and fear about HIV and HIV+ people. 
“From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need” 1875 K Marx

Offline Buckmark

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #21 on: May 03, 2012, 10:22:13 AM »
My stress over the past few months has been feeling alone and isolated with the burden of his secret. He has behaved erratically, and when asked by other family members, I have been forced to cover for him. His pressure tactics have been that he would "not be able to handle life" if others in our family knew. This degraded to a conflict where I was threatening to disclose everything if he didn't stop using destructive drugs. Admittedly not a healthy situation... It's been difficult to find good advice. Everyone is very polarized....

This is a big burden / secret for you to bear by yourself.  I can see how this can be stressful.  It's almost like he is blackmailing you.

Unfortunately, as hard as this is to hear, it certainly sounds like your brother is an addict. He is using you to "cover" and remain silent about his erratic behavior, and continue use of drugs, by apparently threatening to harm himself if you disclose his HIV.  He is coercing you.  Addicts do this.

I see your brother's addiction as the bigger issue right now.  How do you deal with this?  You have to detach.  When your family asks questions about your brother, you don't have cover for him.   You don't have to disclose he is HIV+.  You can talk about his drug use.  You can direct your family members to talk to your brother directly, instead of going through you.  When your brother is looking for cover, you have to tell him that you are there to support him if and when he wants to work on his problems, but that you can't keep covering about his drug use.

Is this easy?  No, not at all.  It's hard to see someone you love destroy themselves.  I'd urge you to consider talking about your situation with a therapist or addiction specialist, to understand your role here.  Culturally, I understand, all this may be difficult for you to do with your family.   But you need to get some help -- for yourself -- otherwise, the stress and the guilt and the secrecy may consume you.  You need to decide what action you are going to take, and that you don't need to (and probably cannot) handle this by yourself.

Regards,

Henry
"Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things:
     One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in hell.
     The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love."
- Butch Hancock, Musician, The Flatlanders

Offline forrest

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #22 on: May 03, 2012, 08:58:34 PM »
Just have to say it... Mecch, Rev, and Buckmark - really nice posts!  I have been following this thread because it's a tough situation I feel for Josh.  I was afraid that he may never come back because of some posts - I am not sure I would have. I think it's cool that you guys spent some time to thoughtful express how each of you feel.

Josh - I'm not here to beat you up either. I feel like we all process through things differently and sometimes during that process, you may feel one way but by the time that processing is done, you may feel another way. Personally, I love getting different perspectives from people.  We all have different life experiences and all have different takes on things. 

It's cool to see that you had three folks really provide some cool feedback IMO.  :)  Thanks to them for being kind and upfront.  You are in a difficult situation which is requiring you to put yourself in your brother's shoes and that can be difficult.  What if it were me? How would I feel?   The whole disclosure things is a tough thing for someone with HIV. I struggle with it myself - others don't. 

Anyway - just wanted to say hang in there and thank you to the last three posters for such nice posts!!  :)
2011-03-26:  Tested Positive

Date           |VL        |CD4 |4%  |CD8 |8%  |C4:C8
2011-04-06 |48,653 |603 |32.0 |646 |35.0 |0.61
2011-05-23 |64,324 |577 |36.0 |576 |36.0 |1.00
2011-08-02 |18,319 |574 |36.3 |587 |37.2 |0.98
2011-12-06 |10,375 |480 |30.1 |616 |38.7 |0.78
2012-02-22 |  9,674 |570 |33.6 |655 |38.7 |0.87
2012-05-04 |  8,439 |559 |30.4 |706 |38.4 |0.79

Offline mecch

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #23 on: May 03, 2012, 10:37:20 PM »
Josh, Im sorry actually. I think my post was too preachy. What I meant to say in a nut shell was that I hope you and your brother can find a better place to understand each other and go forward.  HIV diagnosis are quite the shock for a lot of people.  I don't know your family situation or culture, but I can imagine that being HIV+ can be extremely delicate and complicated and especially at the beginning.  Which is where you and your brother are.  Just the two of you knowing.
Anyway really a good strategy is to take the HIV in stride and let some time for all the info to be learned and the adjustments to be made.  I do think its important to strip away a lot of meanings and values and fears associated with HIV and being HIV+.  Your brother needs a steady guy to help him while he mangages all the adjustment that will be need to make.  A 100% good and necessary process is focusing on medical issues in a straightforward way.  When these medical care and treatment are all clarified and solved, it gives breathing space to slowly deal with other stresses in life.  Sounds like HIV is only one stress..  Good luck.
“From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need” 1875 K Marx

Offline SurferJosh

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #24 on: June 16, 2012, 01:05:32 PM »
Happy to report that I recently met a new friend who happens to have HIV.  Totally different interaction with him than my brother... I see now that the family baggage and my brother's personality clouded the whole disclosure process.

It's very different with this friend-- possibly because he's a casual acquaintance who I only see once a month. I'm obviously not as emotionally vested in his life. Interestingly I met this new friend because he dumped his old circle of friends after his diagnosis.  He used to run in the fast lane and has now slowed down.

It's funny that I get along better with this new friend than my brother.

Offline Joe K

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #25 on: June 16, 2012, 02:28:22 PM »
It's funny that I get along better with this new friend than my brother.

Hey Josh,

I'll guess that the reason you seem to feel, that you get along better with this new friend than your brother is because you aren't judging or blaming your friend for being poz.  As I read this thread, your anger, disgust and frustration are apparent and I wonder if you really feel this way.  Your words seem disconnected from your actions, as you had the presence of mind to come to this forum seeking advice.  That's not the act of someone who doesn't care, but somehow you cannot reconcile the idea that your brother is where he is today, because of his own actions.  Or that somehow, he has betrayed you/family by becoming poz and it seems you are more worried on how this will affect you, than what he is going through.

I know your heart is in the right place, but you need to find some outlet to channel your anger, because that anger can destroy your relationship with your brother.  If you love the guy, then you stand by him.  It doesn't mean that you cover for him, or even approve of what he is doing, however it does involve unconditional love.  That's the key here.  You either love him as your brother, or you do not.  There is no halfway here, as true love is unconditional.  You can be angry about the choices he has made and disapprove of how he might run his life, as that is your choice.  Yet he has not asked anything like that from you.  This is his greatest hour of need and he has turned to you.  Please consider how hard that was for him to do and don't think the you are the only one who feels he is a major disappointment.

I can't convey to you the loneliness, self condemnation and loathing that occurs when many folks test poz.  It can't really be described, because you don't know how it feels, until it actually happens.  What doesn't change, is the need to reach out to someone close, because this is one of those life events that few people can face alone.  He's your brother and he's asking for your help.  Your job is to provide the best support you can, while separating your own issues and conquering them, otherwise you will drift apart and that would be an even greater tragedy.

Joe

Life is what happens, when you are busy making other plans.

Though you may be only one person in the entire world, to one person, you may be the entire world.

I wish to become half the man, that my dog thinks I am.

Remember me with simple acts of kindness and I will live forever.

Offline mecch

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #26 on: June 16, 2012, 02:46:29 PM »
This degraded to a conflict where I was threatening to disclose everything if he didn't stop using destructive drugs. Admittedly not a healthy situation... It's been difficult to find good advice. Everyone is very polarized....
Josh, this is blackmail and emotional abuse.  On your part.
You need to firmly separate the drug abuse from the HIV+ status.  Your brother can do something, or not, about his drug abuse, going forward. His HIV status is forever and has nothing to do with the challenges going forward about his drug abuse.  Which we assume is a correct "identity" you have applied to him, seeing as we only have your interpretation.
You are NOT responsible for your brothers seroconversion.
You are NOT responsible for your brothers drug use.
You have to respect his wishes on HIV.

If you are so very isolated about this, why don't you check in more here.  You can respect your brother's request to keep the secret.  It wasn't GREAT of him to demand that of you, but its done.  So, why don't you start talking yourself about why knowing your brother is HIV+ is wearing so heavily on you.
Give us some details and discussion.  Why is this bringing you down so much.  Tell us your fears, anger, whatever.  Maybe we can help settle your mind a bit. 

Maybe people with more experience about helping a drug abuser can pipe in. But my experience is that blackmail is not helpful.  Sometimes refusing to assist is helpful. Refusing help is also a persons right, when boundaries have been transgressed too many times.   But active threats and blackmail of someone because of their drug use - "if you don't stop drugs, I will do something bad to you"  I think not.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2012, 02:56:10 PM by mecch »
“From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need” 1875 K Marx

Offline SurferJosh

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #27 on: June 17, 2012, 11:06:24 PM »
So, why don't you start talking yourself about why knowing your brother is HIV+ is wearing so heavily on you. Give us some details and discussion.  Why is this bringing you down so much.  Tell us your fears, anger, whatever.  Maybe we can help settle your mind a bit. 

There's a couple reasons I find it hard:

1) I feel increased pressure to be "the responsible kid" in the family.  Whether is be career, money, kids etc. I feel like it's now (solely) up to me to succeed in all these areas, both to keep the family lineage going and in case I need to take care of my brother.

2) I've said it before, and I know it sounds silly to allow your life to be tormented by subway posters, but I feel that my generation was constantly bombarded with AIDS public service announcements.  Magic Johnson, After School Specials, Movies of the Week, Sex ed in school, all those scary billboards etc.   I grew up believing that if you smoked a single cigarette, you'd immediately come down with lung cancer. If you tried cocaine, you'd be instantly addicted... and if you had sex without a condom, you'd get AIDS for sure. Were these messages heavy handed and over the top?  Sure, but arguably they kept people alive. Even the scary AIDS educators they would bring in to high school and college would push the "Don't be like me, use a condom" line.  I have this nagging voice in my head that is constantly screaming "How could he be so stupid?"

3) There's a class element to it as well.  I see my family as the role-model type.  We're supposed to donate money to and volunteer for AIDS service organizations.  You're not supposed to be the beneficiaries. I feel embarrassed that my brother has HIV, the same way I'd feel ashamed if he was in prison.

4) When my brother first came out as gay to my mom, she cried for days. I was largely the recipient of these outbursts because he disappeared from home while my mom processed everything.  She kept screaming that she knew he was going to contract AIDS one day. Now her prediction came true. I don't think she was clairvoyant, but her mother's intuition about his impulsiveness freaked me out.  I feel thrown back into the same situation where he's burdened me to deal with the emotional fallout. I wish my brother would own up to how he got HIV and stop burdening me with his secret. I feel that he's getting away with something by not having to tell our mother.  I think I'd feel better if he fessed up. My mother would totally freak out, but hopefully she'd grow up a bit. I'm curious how mothers react to learning their sons have HIV. Does it permanently devastate them? Are they eternally depressed afterwards? What about close siblings?
« Last Edit: June 18, 2012, 11:11:37 PM by SurferJosh »

Offline jkinatl2

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #28 on: June 18, 2012, 01:05:28 AM »
Quote

3) There's a class element to it as well.  I see my family as the role-model type.  We're supposed to donate money to and volunteer for AIDS service organizations.  You're not supposed to be the beneficiaries. I feel embarrassed that my brother has HIV, the same way I'd feel ashamed if he was in prison.

I'm going to land here for a moment. Your other points are valid and well worth a conversation, but I am going to linger over this paragraph for a sec.

I was raised in an upper middle class neighborhood. I was the "good" kid. My brother, twelve years older than I, was the rebel. By the time he had flunked out of college (seriously, what idiot spray paints his OWN NAME on the statue in the quad) he had quite a number of abortions under his belt, and behaviour reckless enough to earn him a temporary banning from the home.

So I learned. I was the good kid, the ones my folks pinned family hopes slash dreams upon. I was a decent writer, and though I lacked the generous amount of charisma that got my brother laid quite so frequently, I also lacked his ego and temper. It all more or less worked out. Eagle scout, honor student, fast track to college.

Except then I came out, at the tender age of 14. Not that this should have been a moment's shock to anyone. I was never fey, never to terribly off the gender's beaten path. But I only grudgingly did the outdoor stuff (form camping to mowing the yard) and far preferred my books, my acting, my playwriting, my solitude. My air conditioner.

When I came out, it was a hardship for the family. Mom and Dad were pretty freaked, and I spent most of a year in high school severely depressed and downtrodden. I was lucky to have a host of friends, and a support system to take up some of the slack when my family and church let me down. After a while, the family came around. Church and I will never, I suspect, reconcile. Which is actually ok in retrospect.

But there I was, heading off to college and, presumably, life. With a head full of doubts. Trust me, I know the drill. White. upper middle class, the world is basically an opened oyster with a pearl guaranteed to be in the center. Active in church? That's where you network to get your first job, or to get that congressman you've never met to write you a character reference letter to an elite university. The world is promised to folks like us, part and parcel. All we have to do is toe the line.

But some of us don't or can't. With me, it was the mistake my parents made by telling me to be honest about who I was. Oh, they had no IDEA that who I was was going to be gay. Maybe the conversations would have been a lot different. But there I was, suddenly on the outside of this great glass divide. Seeing my peers succeed with the full emotional and financial embrace of the community that suddenly shunned me - or worse, was willing to embrace me so long as I lied to them about who I was, and lied to myself as well.

For an eighteen year old, that's a lot of hard life lessons and unresolved conflicts.

I do not and can not imagine your brother's problems. But I can almost understand his choice to start self-medicating. Happens a lot when people consider themselves painted into a corner, or otherwise trapped. Or worse, when someone considers her/himself fatally flawed.

We make questionable choices. Questionable decisions. And from the outside it seems like a no-brainer to consider us fuckups. Trust me, we often consider ourselves the same. It takes a herculean strength to come back from the edge of that.

I am certainly not suggesting that it's somehow worse to have been promised a life of safe and secure acceptance, and find yourself suddenly disowned and ejected from that. I am sure coming from other socio-economic backgrounds yields horrors I would never for a moment have endured. But what I went through, I went through. From being the Golden Child to being the family embarrassment. Even when my folks came around (and they did) there was damage done.

My self esteem was in the toilet. I was incapable of making a solid judgment. I was literally struggling just to tread water in a hostile ocean. And the thought of someone actually loving me, accepting me, was anathema to my core (disfunctional) beliefs.

So like a lot of people, I grabbed at the first hand that stretched itself out to me in kindness, and held on. Despite what my friends said, despite my suddenly depleted bank account, despite the crazy-ass excuses for staying gone for days at a time, I held on. Because I was never trained for this, never brought up to be jaded and cynical and careful. My upbringing had left me defenseless, and we all know there are animals that can smell that.

So of course I was easily convinced to forego condoms. Despite the posters, Magic Johnson, the movies Philadelphia and Long Term Companion. Despite the hysterical "An Early Frost" TV movie, and all that came with it. I acted out of the sort of desperate, reckless love that had terror at it's heart instead of wisdom.

The sort of love that comes in the form of ash from the dry well of fear and self-deprecation. I knew on so many levels that I was betraying my own self, but this was all overshadowed by the notion that for brief moments in time I found a level of acceptance I had not known since puberty, since my ironic joke of gender attraction had, in my worldview, derailed everything.

It doesn't take an awful lot to negate those ever-present cautionary tales, posters, and information. What is more powerful, what will always be more powerful, is our primal, primate need to belong. To something, to someone.

So of course I tested HIV positive.

Does it matter that it was at the hand (well, penis) of someone I was truly in love with, as opposed to a nameless trick or anonymous partner? Not really. Because when all was said and done, it turns out that I really didn't know him much better than I knew myself - and on my best days, I ran from self-awareness along with the pain and unresolved anger it embodied.

It took years to come out of that. During those years, I started an HIV prevention organization. I educated myself, my family, and my friends. I burnt through the sadness, the anger, the guilt. I decided that the world which had abandoned me was a world I was better off without- and while totally unprepared for the harsh new world I found myself in, I decided that I deserved to give it a chance.

I was lucky that I did this without the added burden of acquiring a drug addiction. There but for the fickle hand of fate. If, at the right vulnerable moment, the right person had offered me the super-charged lift of crystal meth, or the total invigorating embrace of heroin, I might not be here to write this crap.

I was not wiser. I was just lucky. I walked through that dark place and didn't get a knife -slash - monkey on my back. But it was sheer luck that got me through. I don't think my character was developed enough to withstand the intoxicating thought of true and total escape.

So when you talk about the class, remember that class is a construct. And a fragile one at that. Every McMansion holds a few secrets. Some as benign as a "book club" that consists of seven bottles of white wine and a book. Some are as damaging as children borne from an affair with a pool boy, or an addiction to prescription painkillers. And it's not at all outside the realm of thought to find an HIV infection scattered among the rest.

The world you live in is far from perfect. All our worlds are.

What you might want to consider is re-evaluating your pre-conceived notions about your class, your place, your obligations. At some point, the only person you need to impress is yourself. Not your community, not your parents, not your church. Trust me, there ARE skeletons in each of those.

Maybe you can actually help. Maybe instead of generously funding AIDS related issues, you can roll up your sleeves and offer help to someone close to you with HIV and drug addiction. And sadly, maybe you will need to let go a little. The throes of addiction take no prisoners. Perhaps talking with an addiction specialist yourself will help. I can't imagine it would be easy to try to shoulder this burden without help. I mean real help, people that have seen it, lived it, know it.

You might find out three things:

*Your brother is not the loser either of you think he is.

*You are both stronger than you think you are.

*Your paradigm is not the only viable one. There are other worlds than this, to quote Stephen King.

If you love him, and I hope you love him, you will help him. And try to temper the judgment with empathy. He's walking a hard, hard road. Maybe there was a time when it was a "choice," as if being trapped and finding a temporary escape is indeed a choice. But it's not now. His addiction has removed the option of choice, substituting it with a spiral of despair punctuated by brain-destroying moments of unearned, incalculable artificial bliss.

Hard to compete with that bliss. Hard to surmount that despair. But when you love someone, you try to be there.  Save the judging for people with more time and hypocrisy on their hands. If you intend to be there for him, you'll likely be way to busy to judge.



*edited to resolve the very most blatant, but scarcely all, typos.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2012, 01:14:12 AM by jkinatl2 »
"Many people, especially in the gay community, turn to oral sex as a safer alternative in the age of AIDS. And with HIV rates rising, people need to remember that oral sex is safer sex. It's a reasonable alternative."

-Kimberly Page-Shafer, PhD, MPH

Welcome Thread

Offline mecch

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #29 on: June 18, 2012, 10:29:40 AM »
Maybe you are growing up and seeing the world with more acute perception. And it is not fitting all the formulas and rule-books and expectations of youth.  Your brother’s HIV diagnosis is unfortunate.  But you can make some "lemon-aids" at least and take this opportunity to let more illusions fall.

1)   The aledged drug abuse of you brother is what might keep him from career and financial success.  Not necessarily his HIV status.  Also, you don’t need to plan on taking care of him.  You live where?  Newly infected and diagnosed and well observed HIV+ people with access to treatment when needed, don’t have hideous prognosis, you know.
2)   Sex withOUT a condom is perfectly natural.  HIV+ people are not often the “stupid” fools you think they might be.   Lots of HIV- people have unsafe sex and haven’t got HIV.   Lots of HIV+ follow safe sex rules and then screw up.  Make mistakes.  HIV is not a punishment or moral judgement.  Some STDs are curable and this one is not.  Changing your attitude about this virus is going to be a big step for you.
3)   Well, time to get over this false sense of security, superiority, or noblesse oblige based on class.   This ain’t the 17th Century and you are not a French aristocrat.  And anyway, when it comes to STDs, those elites were not immune.  And today, well, anyone can have HIV.  Time to discard your stereotypes, ok?
4)   Confused.   “Own up to how he got HIV”?  Huh?  It does not matter the specific act. Either he got it from unsafe sex or intravenous drug use.  Is which way important??  He got it from unsafesex.  What is there to own up to??   

I think you meant to say, you wish he would tell your family he is HIV+ because the secret you know weighs heavily.   I get you that you had to support your mom’s crisis when your brother came out.  On the other hand, you are an adult, right? You had the right to tell your mom to get over herself, and educate herself.  You could have said, Mom, I love my brother and it’s just another piece of information that he’s gay, and I think its cool.   But you didn’t. 

Sounds like you share some of your Mom’s perspective on your brother being gay and all the torrid stereotypes and fears and shame that causes her, and maybe you.  Its not unusual, her attitude and fears.  Pretty normal.  Its your job to have  BIGGER consciousness, because you are not from her generation. 

“Getting away with something”?  Have you considered that he knows she freaked out about being gay.  So he’s not ready for this new disclosure.  This actually is KIND to you, because you don’t have to deal with your mom’s next freakout.  Maybe by the time he does tell your family, you will have established your own independence a bit from them and won’t need to support them.  Sounds to me like “supporting them” is pretty much the same as “agreeing” with their utter dismay that a family member was BORN gay, so its out of his control.

And now he has got a relatively common virus that has infected millions of people around the world, and that society too often considers immoral and dirty and shameful.  Both the virus and the people who have it.  Do you know not that long ago, having cancer was considered shameful?  Illnesses are unreliable metaphors...  Let society go on its slow pace changing attitudes about people with HIV.  You need to take the fast track now.

Your road is to love and accept your brother, who is gay, and who has HIV, and build a MUCH bigger consciousness and heart and awareness of the relativity of moralities in this world.  He’s the same EXACT person you grew up with.  These new realities are just opportunities for bigger awareness.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2012, 10:36:17 AM by mecch »
“From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need” 1875 K Marx

Offline SurferJosh

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #30 on: June 18, 2012, 11:28:18 PM »
Thanks Jkinatl2!  Very helpful thoughts.

Offline forrest

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #31 on: June 19, 2012, 12:13:07 AM »
Really nice job of expressing yourself jkinatl2.  :)
2011-03-26:  Tested Positive

Date           |VL        |CD4 |4%  |CD8 |8%  |C4:C8
2011-04-06 |48,653 |603 |32.0 |646 |35.0 |0.61
2011-05-23 |64,324 |577 |36.0 |576 |36.0 |1.00
2011-08-02 |18,319 |574 |36.3 |587 |37.2 |0.98
2011-12-06 |10,375 |480 |30.1 |616 |38.7 |0.78
2012-02-22 |  9,674 |570 |33.6 |655 |38.7 |0.87
2012-05-04 |  8,439 |559 |30.4 |706 |38.4 |0.79

Offline harleymc

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Re: The Whole Non Judgemental Thing
« Reply #32 on: August 24, 2012, 07:49:45 AM »
Sounds like the family has trust and emotional opennness issues. Both Josh and their mother hate the expression of truth.

I'm not at all surprised that Josh's brother has turned to drugs and risk taking for validation.

 


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