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.
DEAR ABBY: I told a close girlfriend of mine I had bought my soon-to-be-born granddaughter a baby ring and plan on giving it to my daughter-in-law at the shower. I was really excited about it. A week later my friend texted me asking if she would be stepping on my toes if she bought the baby a little baby bracelet.
My first reaction was yes, and that she was trying to upstage me at the shower. At any rate, my baby ring would not be as special as I want it to be. Am I wrong in feeling this way? Is it appropriate for her to do that? Now I feel bad that I'm making my granddaughter miss out on a beautiful gift because of my selfishness. I would appreciate your help. -- NOT SPECIAL IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR NOT SPECIAL: This may not be the answer you are expecting, but I would be remiss if I didn't share my thoughts with you. I am concerned about the wisdom of buying a ring for a small child, particularly a baby. Babies spend a lot of time with their little hands in their mouths. You must know that the ring would not be worn by your granddaughter because such an item could choke an infant (and the bracelet, too, for that matter). Discuss that gift with the child's mother before giving it.
As to your friend's idea of a bracelet, if she was trying to upstage you, she wouldn't have told you about her idea. Let it go.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)