a man smiles as his family is represented inside of his body with a crowd of multiethnic and multi-aged people

Family Support

My family has always been my support system. Through every up and down that life has brought, my family has been there when I’ve allowed them to be.

When I was diagnosed, I swore I would keep it a secret from everyone. I’m the oldest child and I often keep things to myself because, with 5 siblings, my mom had plenty of things to worry about.

But, at the time, I was really unwell. I had lost a lot of weight and had been struggling to keep it all together; my mom took notice.

Would my mom be disappointed?

I was so scared she would be disappointed.

If I have 1 singular goal in life, it is to make my mother proud. She has worked incredibly hard her entire life to make sure we had what we needed, especially after my father was out of the picture.

How can I support you?

After noticing I wasn’t keeping it all together well, my mom told me that we needed to talk about what was going on. So, we met over coffee - I told her about my diagnosis and how my meds worked. And while she did cry, she asked what I needed from her.

My siblings were the same way. They all reached out to ask how they could support me.

At that point, I had gotten things figured out. I made sure that I knew what I needed to do before I spoke with any of my family about what was going on. I’m stubborn like that.

My family's continued support

My family has continued to support me in whatever way they were able to over the years - taking me to appointments when I didn’t have a car, donating to the AIDS Walk. My sister and brother-in-law even appeared in and shoot with me.

I’m eternally grateful for my family’s constant and steady support over the years.

I wish others had that same support

But I cannot sit and think about their consistent support without thinking about the messages I get from people all over the world on social media who are newly diagnosed, coming to terms with their sexuality or gender identity or are fearful of telling their family about their HIV status.

The stories I’ve heard of young people being kicked out of their homes due to being LGBTQ+ or HIV-positive break my heart and wish I could bring every one of them into my family so they could experience what I hope every family could be like.

Homeless youth and HIV

According to True Colors United, LGBTQ+ youth are 120 percent more likely to experience homelessness. Homeless adolescents are at a higher risk of contracting HIV due to higher rates of sexual abuse and exploitation.1

These stories and statistics make me even more motivated to help educate people so that families understand that their loved ones need their support, not their judgment.

If you are reading this now and your family has not supported you, I hope that you find a chosen family who fills that void.

If not, know that you are a part of my chosen family. I and other advocates are here to love and support you when the going gets tough. Because no matter if it is biological or chosen, family should be there for you no matter what.

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