Living with HIV: Friendships

Living With HIVHIV affects thousands of teens and young adults. Between 2006 and 2009, 29,740 teens and young adults between the ages of 13-24 were diagnosed with HIV. In 2009, the young adults between the ages of 20-24 accounted for the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses. Even though HIV has been around in the United States for approximately 30 years and HIV/AIDS education is included in school based health curricula, there are still misconceptions and stigma associated with the disease.

In the sixth entry in our “Living with HIV” blog series, teens and young adults address their thoughts and feelings concerning life with HIV and the impact it has on their friendships. All of the material was written by teens and young adults living with HIV.

-The Young Men’s Health Initiative staff

  • “The idea of a best friend… I don’t know in my life how many best friends I’ve had or will have. I think it’s easier for them to be a best friend with me, they think they know me and they let me into their lives, but I keep at a distance. I don’t see them necessarily as best friends because a best friend should know I have HIV, but they don’t. They’re not ready to know.”
  • “Friends and relationships are tested. You have to be on guard all the time when you have HIV. I can deal with everything else, but friendships are the most difficult to navigate because you don’t know how people are going to react, or what they believe.”
  • “Trust is the number one thing. It’s hard to have full relationships with people because you don’t know who to tell, when to tell them, and what to say. You’re putting your life on the line, you know? My close friends don’t know and it’s hard to feel I have a full relationship with them because a whole important part of myself is being hidden from them.”
  • “Do I trust them enough to tell them? How long are they going to be around and be my friend? I have a lot of friends who are very passionate about social justice work, but I don’t want them to save me. I want them to know so they can understand me and where I’m coming from, but I don’t want pity.”
  • “I appreciate my sister. She gets me, but I just wish she knew how it feels to have to take medicine every day. She sticks up for me and helps me with my doctor appointments even when she doesn’t agree with me. Like when I was feeling really sick because of the medicine, she told the doctor even when she thought it was more in my head. She knows everything, she’s definitely smarter than me, and she’s nice.”
  • “I think I would freak out if people knew I had HIV because I think they would do something negative or stop being my friend. My fear is that after being friends with someone for five years they would just drop me.”