I've kept my HIV diagnosis and sexuality a secret from my family for 9 years. Here's why

PHOTO: Pexels

Dec 1 marks World Aids Day, which is dedicated to raising awareness on acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (Aids) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Weston (not his real name) leads a double life.

On the surface, he seems like a regular guy in his 30s, with a stable job in healthcare and aspirations of saving enough to take his family on an overseas vacation.

But what his family doesn't know is that he was diagnosed with HIV nine years ago.

And while his condition is still a secret to a majority of the people in his life, he finds an outlet by spilling his innermost musings, fears and anxieties on Instagram under the handle @positivelivinginsg.

Before starting his account, he could only rely on a select few close friends and his partner of seven years for emotional support, he tells AsiaOne.

Now, he says he has total strangers reaching out to him with encouraging messages, and he's even caught the attention of one of his idols, Pose star Dominique Jackson, who left a 'like' on one of his posts.

'He was cheating on me'

It took Weston years before he was finally able to come to terms with his diagnosis. He was still studying in university when he was hit with the news that he had contracted HIV from his ex-boyfriend.

"I felt disgusted after discovering that he was cheating on me," Weston reveals. "I felt much worse when he didn't even dare to tell me to get tested."

He only found out about his condition post-breakup when he took a test after experiencing fever and chills that lasted over a week.

In a particularly raw Instagram post, he describes how he left the clinic after receiving his diagnosis and took a lift to the ninth floor of a nearby HDB block.

He recalls thinking at that point in time, "Should I jump? I am already struggling with my gay identity. And now I have HIV?"

After battling suicidal thoughts for a week, he finally plucked up the courage and broke the news to three of his closest friends.

Fortunately, it was a good start — his friends offered to lend him money for his medication, and even allowed him to stay with them until his emotions stabilised.

For the past nine years, he has been keeping this secret close to his chest and only tells those who he trusts fully. Fortunately, they have all accepted him.

Living in the shadows

Weston has had less luck finding acceptance from his family, however.

"My family remains unaware that I am gay and HIV-positive," he says.

"I have broken down many a time and yearned for my family to accept their son as a gay man living with HIV. But I did not want to put them in a difficult position where they have to deal with criticisms from their close friends and relatives."

Growing up in a traditional and conservative family, issues surrounding gender and sexuality, much less a stigmatised condition like HIV, were simply not spoken of. And when the topic was brought up, it was often in a negative light.


Weston recounts one occasion when he was watching a documentary on TV with his mother when she turned to him and proclaimed that "HIV is a gay disease".

"Those sentiments saddened me and made me understand that I couldn't disclose my condition to her or rely on her for support."

Since his diagnosis, he's been shouldering the burden of multiple doctors' appointments and hefty drug costs, with his family none the wiser.

He takes a combination of Kivexa and Edurant every single day, and used to have to fork out over $600 each month for his medication — not a small sum at all for a student with no income.

But Weston credits his social worker and various programmes such as MediFund and the Medication Assistance Fund for coming in clutch and helping him defray his medical bills.

A big milestone, Weston says, came last September when HIV treatment drugs were first added to the Ministry of Health's list of subsidised medications. With the subsidies, he now pays about $100 a month, fully deducted from his MediSave.

Finding love

Another bright spot in his life is his seven-year relationship, Weston shares.

Since the 2000s, evidence has emerged to show that people living with HIV (PLHIV) who have undetectable viral loads can't transmit it sexually. Essentially, with effective antiretroviral treatment, they can live regular lives.


Even so, Weston, who achieved an undetectable viral load about a year after his diagnosis, admits that he once struggled to open up to potential romantic partners about his condition.

"I was so scared to tell potential partners as I feared being rejected or they would think that I was 'dirty' or 'unclean'," he says.

On one occasion, he even told a potential partner that he simply wasn't interested in a bid to avoid disclosing his condition and confessed, on Instagram, that it hurt him to do so.

But things fell into place when he met his partner some seven years ago.

"I didn't directly tell him, but I asked him questions regarding his views on HIV and people living with the condition. He seemed like a pretty nice chap, and during one of the dates, I just confessed to him that I have HIV.

"Not only did he hug me, he reassured me that things would be okay."

The pair made things official on that day, and have been happily dating ever since, Weston shares, adding that his partner makes him "feel like a normal person again".

He didn't share why or how his partner was so accepting of his diagnosis but says that he is fortunate to have found him.

"I guess I am lucky to find a guy who is knowledgeable about HIV and accepting of PLHIV. I am just grateful for that."

'I'm still afraid of being stigmatised'

Weston may be in a much better place than he was nine years ago, but he admits that he doesn't think he'll ever be able to disclose his condition to his family, or go public with it.

"I'm still afraid of being stigmatised and discriminated against," he explains.

Among the biggest misconceptions he encounters is the notion that "the LGBTQ community deserves HIV because they are promiscuous".

PLHIV come from all walks of life, he says. And like him, some contracted HIV from monogamous relationships.

And for those who wish to be an ally to the PLHIV in their lives, Weston's advice is to focus more energy on how you can support them, rather than fixating on how they contracted HIV.

"While people can easily choose to disclose other medical conditions and illnesses to families and close friends, revealing an HIV diagnosis is more complicated due to its stigma.

"Because I've gone through it, I want those recently diagnosed to know that the path can be difficult, but you can get through it if you don't give up."

For more information on HIV and Aids, visit Action for Aids (AFA).


  • Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
  • Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
  • Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
  • Institute of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
  • Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928


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