Sunday, September 18, 2011

I know someone with AIDS

I hung out with my cousin from California at the mall the other day while she was visiting her dad for the week.  We caught up on a lot of stuff- family, friends and boyfriends. I hadn't seen her older brother who was now living in NYC since the one time I'd gone to visit the city, in March 2009. Back then, my cousin had suggested I come visit him and had offered to let me stay at his place. I planned my trip, and my good friend also booked her flight to go visit her family in New Jersey.

My intentions were to sleep at my cousin's and meet up with my friend during the day to go out and explore the city. However, my cousin pulled a disappearing act and never returned my calls or texts about my incoming visit. I was very disappointed. I ended up staying with my friend's family instead, but managed to get a visit in the city with my cousin and his boyfriend. Yes, he is gay.

However, the visit was rather tense, and things with the boyfriend sort of rubbed me the wrong way. Since then, I haven't spoken to my cousin. When I hold grudges, I hold on to them for years.

Fast forward a few years to that day with my cousin at the mall, and I explain to her that I hadn't talked to him since then because of what had happened.

"When was this?" she asked.
"Around spring of 2009, why?" I asked.
"Well, ok, I know he was going through a hard time, right around that period-" she said.
"Oh yeah, I remember. My mom told me he'd landed in the hospital for like a month, with pneumonia or something" I continued.
"Yeah, but..... okay, you can't say this to anyone- not your mom, dad- no one, but my brother has full blown AIDS."
My mind went completely blank.
"Oh wow. Not HIV? But AIDS?" I asked to make sure.
"Yeah, AIDS" she responded

I didn't ask her too much about it, but he's known for three years now. He doesn't know how long he's had it because he started being promiscuous years ago when he was a teenager (I think he's 28-29 now.) Over the years, he just kept getting really sick, having problems holding his bowels, until finally he ended up in the hospital. I remember my mom telling me about the hospital stint, but I never assumed it would be because of AIDS. You just can't think of things like that.

His boyfriend and he have been together for over three years now, and when I asked if he'd gotten tested, my cousin told me he didn't want to. It was moot at this point. He didn't care if he had it.

No one else knows- my aunt doesn't want to tell anyone in the family because of the stigma attached to it and I can understand. I mean, she didnt tell my parents that he was gay until this summer. I've known for 3 years so far.

I felt bad for him, because I couldn't possibly imagine how his life had changed since he'd found out, and I haven't spoken to him since exchanging a Facebook hello in the last few weeks. What's more difficult is that I'm not supposed to know, so I can't express any concern or offer encouragement, so to me it's like, he's fine. Nothing's wrong and it's a lie I have to hide.

Be smart. Protect Yourself.

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