It can be really difficult living with a stigmatizing medical condition.
Despite advances in treatment and controlling the spread, HIV is still a disease that can get you ostracized. Even worse, is if you're not the one to explain the condition to someone who was already out to get you.
Reddit user ThrowRA22299 explained her story and asked the internet for advice on how to handle this situation.
"For the last two months, my(28f) boyfriend (28m) have been staying with his mom during quarantine. I have my own home with roommates and so does he but she insisted we stay with her temporarily to more easily adhere to social distancing."
To start, the original poster (OP) gave some background on her relationship and her medical condition.
"I am HIV positive, and my boyfriend is aware. My boyfriend is HIV negative."
"I'm undetectable, which means there is so little amount of virus in my body that I cannot transmit the virus to anyone else. I cannot infect another person, even through unprotected sex."
"If you aren't aware of how this happens, people with HIV can take antiretrovirals to basically fight the virus and protect your white blood cells from being attacked so the virus is unable to replicate. A lot has changed over the decades."
But it goes beyond that.
The whole situation is incredibly traumatic for her.
OP explained how she got the disease, and the abuse she had to endure.
"A little background: I have been HIV positive since I was 15 years old. I have a lot of trauma associated with my status. The person who gave it to me was an adult who was extremely abusive."
"This person beat and raped me regularly and held my HIV status over my head as a way to control me and keep me in the relationship. For years, I felt unlovable and dirty."
"It took A LOT of work and therapy to overcome my own personal shame towards my status. I don't tell anybody about my status unless they have to know – like they're medical professionals or if I'm sleeping with someone."
"My family knows, but none of my friends do. Not even my closest ones. I was so afraid of the stigma of my status that it changed the trajectory of my entire life. I was suicidal for years and stayed in lots of bad relationships because I was worried nobody better would love me. "
Luckily, she's now in a much better relationship with her current boyfriend. Therapy has done wonders, and she's fought hard to resume a more positive life.
However, as strong as she looks for what she's overcome, this is still a precarious situation for OP and her mental health. Which is probably why she's very careful with who knows about her past.
This is all thrown out the window as soon as her BF's mom found her medication.
Again, not the end of the world if the mom found it by accident and kept it to herself, but she instead told the entire family about it.
"Well, my boyfriend's mom found my medication. I had a pill bottle in my purse in the closet."
"She claims she found a pill on the floor and saw a bag sticking out of my purse and thought she would put it there. The medication was in the bag and that's how she found it."
"Anyways, instead of coming to me or my boyfriend, she told his sister. And then his sister told her husband and their other sister. Now the whole family knows my HIV status."
"The mom apparently reacted with things like, 'How could she do this to herself?' and 'Was she not raised properly?' She's always been judgmental towards me, but this is victim blaming at its finest."
"She was worried that I gave it to her son but he took a test in front of them and he is negative. His sisters are apparently not judging me for it, but his mom definitely thinks lesser of me."
It really sucks to have personal details, especially sensitive medical information shared without your permission. It's unbelievably harmful.
OP unfortunately is going to have to face the mom about this eventually. Her BF is super close to his family, and she won't be able to avoid them forever.
What can she do?
"As soon as I learned what she did, I packed my things and left without saying a word to her. I love my boyfriend and according to him, he stood up for me when talking to his mom and sister, but I don't know what to do from here."
"His family is EXTREMELY close. They all talk every day and spend a lot of time together. I don't want to see them, but I'm going to have to at some point. And I don't want to feel like I'm the 'girlfriend with HIV' forever."
"I feel sick to my stomach and I've been crying every day. What do I do? What should I expect from my bf?"
"Side note: I have a virtual therapy appointment next week, so if you're going to suggest therapy, I'm way ahead of you."
There are two competing schools of thought here.
Before we get into them, we'd just like to say that therapy is the right call first. If you can, a therapist is going to have much better advice for this situation over some random internet denizens.
That said, the advice given on the subReddit was usually either to have a sit down with the mom where OP explains her situation or get the mom to apologize and explain nothing.
As bad as it sounds, there's good arguments for both.
Good communication in a relationship, whether it be romantic, friendly, familial or even professional is the most important thing.
"You could have a calm sit-down chat in a neutral location, just the three of you, and tell your bf's Mum what happened to you and why you have HIV."
"You can also ask her for an apology while you're with her. Sometimes people need to hear the truth to actually have some self-analysis."
"If you aren't comfortable with that, sit on it for a bit and think about what you want to do. Your therapist might have some good ideas." - areyoulogical
"I don't know if this is good advice or not but I feel like if you sent this entire post to the mother so she could understand how you FEEL, maybe she will apologise and you can choose to forgive and try to move on, or maybe she won't apologise and it will help your next course of action." - CptDelts
"I'm so sorry for everything you had to go though. I can only imagine how hard that could be."
"Maybe you could try writing his mom a letter explaining how you feel and decide if you want to give It to her or not." - baby_oddish
"I second all the "talk to them" and "therapy" advice, but one thing I would like to add is to be wary of enmeshed families (you can talk about that in therapy as well). Your partner needs to have *your* back here, not his family's--now more than ever." - [Deleted]
Doing this can clear the air and explain OP's side of the story.
She can make it clear why this is so hard for her to deal with and potentially get the mom to understand why just sharing this information would be extra damaging.
Of course, this is volunteering more information than the mother should need. Mom invaded OP's personal belongings, found sensitive medical information and rather than talk with OP or her boyfriend, instead told the family about it.
It's made even worse because Mom was a nurse! She should know how to handle someone's medical history, and how much it could hurt OP to share this.
Which is why some are calling for no explanation, unless it's what OP wants. Cut off communication with mom if necessary, they say.
She shouldn't have to explain herself to someone who invaded her privacy.
"Tbh to me this is no contact territory. I know it's never as simple as that, but you need to consider what you will put up with going forward. This was violations of so many boundaries."
"I've tried the sit down meetings to no avail, and I wish I hadn't wasted so much time on them now, but hindsight is 20/20."
"I would focus on talking to your bf about how this was not ok in any way, and if you need a break from his family, that's OK." - GollumsPersonalities
"I'm going to gaze into my crystal ball and predict she will stick with her story about 'accidentally' finding the pills before placing her fingertips on her heart and saying something like 'as a mother....I care deeply about the safety of my son. You'll understand when you have children and would do the same thing'."
"Nobody willingly admits to being the bad guy. I say go no contact." - frodosbitch
"Exactly. I think a sit down meeting where Op has to suddenly explain herself just gives credence to the behavior of the mom in the first place. The mom should be the one apologizing or trying to make amends, not the other way around" - kortiz46
"Wanted to let you know BF's mom is absolutely not entitled to knowing why you have your status. I know most comments say to tell her but I'd tell her to gtfo my business." - ReminiscentSnake
Again, if you're in an emotionally taxing situation like this, talk to your therapist before deciding what to do. They will have better and clearer advice.
Next decide where your line in the sand is. What do you value more in this relationship? Are you willing to sacrifice your privacy in the name of peace, or is it better to ensure Mom doesn't walk all over you?
We hope OP is doing well. This is a tough situation.