Mama is HIV+
Telling your children about a health condition is never easy. Masanda Peter admires her friend’s honesty.
Talking to a friend, Bongi, who is HIV+ and open about it, I am amazed at how supportive her teenage kids are. I am in awe of how those two boys are supporting their mother.

I wanted to know how it was for her breaking the news to her kids as I had imagined that it must have been a challenge for her telling her young boys (then in primary school).

Bongi told me that she first prayed for wisdom and strength and for good approach when breaking the news to her sons about her HIV status. She wanted to be open to her kids about her situation and also to break the silence. She wanted to tell them herself.

One day she called them into her room and told them about her health. The younger son was shocked and wanted to know whether he was also infected. She explained to them that it was not the case, only she was infected.

She did not speak about death but living with the virus in her body and did not want to scare the children but she also wanted to be realistic about her situation and the possibilities, she educated them about the virus. She also told them that she contracted the virus from their father but she was not angry with him and did not want them to be angry with him either. The children were there when their father was ill so they knew he was affected.

She decided to speak out because some of the values she instilled in them are that they should not hide anything from each other, and she would also not have liked them to hide anything from her. She wanted to build more trust between her and the kids. She did not want them to discover news about her illness when she was dead which could hurt her children.

Choosing not to tell

I have family members who disclosed on their deathbeds and that left the children feeling that had they had been told earlier they could have helped the parent. It also left some feeling angry that their parents did not feel that they were worth the truth or trust them enough with the news. I do not think we can blame the parent in this case because I am sure they are doing what they think is best for the child.

In some communities HIV is still seen as a disease that comes through sexual promiscuity and now to tell your kids that you are HIV+ might make one reluctant especially where not enough information is available.

Bongi has received incredible support from her children and she is grateful that she disclosed to them. When she has flu they become concerned and want to help which she appreciates. She feels that this has brought her even much closer to her kids.

I salute her for her openness as it seems to be working for her. This may not only apply to HIV/Aids only but other terminal diseases as well.

Would you be open with your kids about a terminal illness?

Read more by Masanda Peter

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