DEAR ABBY: This is for "Sur-americano" who wanted to know if he should tell his family that he had tested HIV-positive for the AIDS virus. I cast my vote for a resounding YES!
Our son tested positive nearly three years before he felt any ill effects from the disease. I, his mother, learned about his illness only 23 days before he died. He had lost a little weight - that's all.When he first learned that he tested positive, he told his sister, who was his best friend. He swore her to secrecy because he didn't want to worry me. I could never understand why he had episodes when he would run a high fever, miss a day or two of work and be fine the next day. He had his own home, so I didn't know the suffering he endured. If only he had told me, perhaps I could have helped him physically and spiritually. He needed no financial help because he was a very successful decorator and had the best insurance available. God took him from us a year ago.
I know that he thought it best that I didn't know, but it hurt me more not knowing. He deprived me of the opportunity to tell him how very proud I was of him and how much I loved him. - STILL GRIEVING
DEAR GRIEVING: My readers voted overwhelmingly in favor of telling the family. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: In response to "Suramericano's" letter wondering whether to tell his family that he had tested positive for AIDS, I can offer the viewpoint of a family member who wasn't told until it was too late.
My dear cousin chose to tell only his parents and siblings, and then only after the AIDS virus had become active. By the time he died, I could only guess why he was ill, but I felt helpless not being able to cross the line that he had drawn between us.
I respect my cousin's right to make this decision, but knowing now that he was gay and died of AIDS doesn't cause me to cherish his memory less. However, many things continue to haunt me - the visits I would have made, the things I might have said, the understanding that was never achieved. Was he ashamed? Or did he think I would be ashamed? Was it really necessary for him and his immediate family to be so isolated during his final ordeal?
My choice as a family member would have been to know the truth (however painful) and to have dealt with it. It would have been far better to have been there, offering words of love, knowing I did everything I could - than to have been shut out. - HURT IN SAN FRANCISCO
READERS: The few letters I received advising "Suramericano" not to tell his family were different variations on the same theme:
DEAR ABBY: Before giving "Suramericano" any advice, I would have to know what kind of relationship he has with his family. If it's anything like mine, I would vote no. Here's my story:
I am a gay male. I've always been a good son and didn't want to live a lie, so when I was 17, I told my parents I was gay, hoping they would not judge me. Our priest came with me for moral support, explaining that no one chooses his or her sexuality - it is something inborn in all of us. They refused to believe him. Instead they quoted Scripture, labeled me a sinner and told me I was no longer their son.
I envy my gay friends whose parents accept and love them just the way they are. Unfortunately I wasn't that lucky. - RESIGNED IN RICHMOND, VA.
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