Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Disabled Man Conceals HIV Diagnosis From His Parents

DEAR ABBY: I'm a man in my early 30s who was born with a moderately severe form of cerebral palsy. This disability has always been a major part of my life. As a child, I used a wheelchair and had several surgeries on my legs that were somewhat traumatic. However, through physical therapy and the encouragement of my parents, I was able to learn to do most things on my own, to the point that I got my own apartment, went to college and on to grad school. I support myself just fine.

The problem is, when I was 23 (10 years ago), I was diagnosed with HIV. It was contracted through sex during a time when I was depressed. It was difficult for me emotionally for a few months, but because of my experience with my disability, I was able to pull myself together pretty quickly.

Healthwise, I'm doing great, but I have never told my parents. They are in their early 60s and have worked in fields of government where they encountered HIV decades ago. I don't believe they have any current information about the disease and the effectiveness of treatment.

Should I tell them about my diagnosis? I'm constantly torn between a feeling that I should be raising awareness and destigmatizing HIV, and a fear that they aren't going to understand. I'm not sick, I'm not dying, and my life is not ruined. The advances of the past 30 years have allowed that. But I still feel like letting them know I'm HIV-positive would be a burden on them, especially after what I've faced with cerebral palsy. Should I tell them? And what's the best approach? -- POSITIVELY POSITIVE

DEAR POSITIVE: If your parents are intelligent, they should have some idea that HIV treatment has improved over the decades. Because you appear to be eager to "raise awareness," I suggest that you tell them about your status in as upbeat a manner as possible. Tell them you love them, that you are doing great, your meds are working well, but you thought they ought to know.

Read more in: Family & Parenting