In the past, I have let you all know that my immediate family has known about my HIV status for many years now. Once I got my viral load under control and I was undetectable, I opened up to all of them. I knew that my family would be supportive because my family has always been very small and we make sure to always look out for each other.
Over the years I have talked to my mother in great detail about my diagnosis and my journey. She has been the best support system that I could ever ask for and she constantly asks me if I have been keeping up with my doctor’s visits and if I am still adhering to my medication.
An unexpected question from my sister
I have lived my life as an open book for a very long time. I have never been nervous to talk to someone about my status except for a few days ago.
If I am in the area of my younger sister's job, I always ask her if she needs a ride home when she gets off. A few times a month, I pick her up and take her home, but this last time was different.
“Steven, can you still transmit HIV if..."
We tend to always make small talk in the car because the car ride is only about ten minutes from her work to where I drop her off at. The typical things we talk about are how her workday went or how she and her boyfriend are doing. This time she asked me something very different.
This time she asked, “Steven, can you still transmit HIV if you don’t wear a condom with the people you have sex with?” I was taken aback by the question because we have never discussed anything related to HIV before.
A teachable moment
After taking a few seconds to process my thoughts, I decided to explain to her what HIV is and how it is transmitted. I realized that working in the field automatically made me turn back into a health educator.
Talking about HIV and sexual health
After explaining all of that, I then asked her if she knew what undetectable meant when it comes to someone’s HIV status. For some odd reason, I never talked to my sister before about sexual health or anything related to HIV.
But, I knew that I needed to take this opportunity to do so. I am glad I took the opportunity to because she then started asking more and more questions. It made me happy to know that she felt comfortable asking me and letting me give her advice at the same time.
I want my sisters to be safe
Both of my sisters are graduated from high school now and I know that they are going to be living their lives just like I have, but all I want is for them to be safe.
Now, I plan to take an afternoon where I can really talk to both of them and get into the conversation of my diagnosis and what it truly means to be HIV positive at this day and age.
Do you live in the Southern US?