AIDS Hasn’t Gone Away

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New Youth Connections, New York

(Names have been changed.)

A friend is someone you know well and who knows you well, someone with whom you share affection and respect. Along with friendship comes a degree of responsibility to support each other in a time of need or crisis. But how far does that responsibility go?

I met KaJuan last summer through one of my other friends. We clicked right away and hung out every day, all summer. We went to the beach and hung out at gay nightclubs. Since I’m an excellent dancer, I tried to teach him different dance moves. It was funny to see him struggling to learn the moves.

I found him attractive and thought we would make a great couple. But we talked about it and agreed that a relationship wouldn’t last as long as a friendship. We decided not to risk our friendship and, three weeks later, KaJuan started dating another guy.

I felt fine about that until recently, when my friend Robert gave me some shocking news about KaJuan’s new boyfriend. Robert said that he used to go out with KaJuan’s boyfriend. Since Robert is HIV-positive, he only dates men who are HIV-positive as well. That’s how he knew that KaJuan’s boyfriend has had HIV for five years. Robert wanted me to keep this a secret because no one else knew about his own HIV status.

I didn’t want to believe what I had just heard. KaJuan had previously told me that he and his new boyfriend have had unprotected sex numerous times. He said it was OK because they were in a committed relationship and knew each other’s HIV status was negative. Or so he thought.

I felt like a rag doll being pulled apart by two pre-kindergarten students. I had no idea what to do. Should I tell KaJuan about his boyfriend’s HIV status, or should I keep my mouth shut and avoid getting into drama over someone else’s business?

Part of me wanted to tell KaJuan because I care about him and never want to see him hurt. But in the past, I have found myself getting into arguments and have even lost friends because I told other people’s personal business. I didn’t want KaJuan’s boyfriend to accuse me of lying, since it would be his word against mine, and I wasn’t sure who KaJuan would believe.

I decided to keep my mouth shut. I felt like I wasn’t in a position to reveal KaJuan’s boyfriend’s personal business, even though I knew it could be a matter of life or death. I also felt that KaJuan shouldn’t have believed his boyfriend’s status just based on what his boyfriend said. When KaJuan got tested, he showed his boyfriend his actual results from the clinic. He should have asked his boyfriend to do the same thing.

It has been two months since I found out and, as far as I know, KaJuan still does not know that his boyfriend has HIV. I feel so guilty that I haven’t opened my mouth. I really hope that KaJuan doesn’t contract HIV. If he does, I would feel devastated because he would be the second person I know with the disease. I would also feel somewhat responsible for not telling him.

I still feel strongly that it’s not my place to reveal KaJuan’s boyfriend’s status. That’s his boyfriend’s responsibility. The only thing that I feel I can do is try to persuade KaJuan to start practicing safe sex. But sometimes I still feel like I’m not being a friend to KaJuan because I’m holding out on information that could change his life forever.

© 2009 Youth Communication/New York Center Inc.,