Living Well With HIV – Family Values

As we approach Christmas and the holiday season, for some of us mixed emotions can arise due to family expectations and values. On the one hand the holiday season can mean an abundant and playful time with family and friends. While for others, the prospect of family time during the holiday season can feel burdensome and wearisome, as one tip-toes delicately around triggers which could set off a dysfunctional family dynamic.

Being single does not necessarily confer automatic protection. Some feel the bliss of being by themselves but many more others feel sadness of being alone during the Christmas period. It is worth acknowledging how the holiday season, with its deluge of advertising messages (that are designed to evoke emotional responses), can amplify our feelings of acceptance and rejection. This too can layer how we experience our family, given the personal choices we have made in life.

As a person who is living with HIV (and a proud member of the LGBTI family) it is during Christmas time that I am reminded of how extraordinarily strong family values are within our communities. This is particularly so given the failure of most of our faith-based organisations to recognise the divine love in our relationships. Many of us will fulfill a variety of family roles, for example as uncles or aunts to nieces or nephews or increasingly as parents in our own right. Many of us will also play a caring role for our ageing parents, sometimes without the support of siblings particularly if their capacity to assist is limited because of their own immediate family considerations. As a consequence it is our community’s strong commitment to family values that undertakes this labour of love.

Another powerful demonstration of family values within LGBTI communities is how many of us have embraced the concept of ‘family of choice’. This refers to people we choose as our family because we might share a neighborhood, an interest, a shared sexuality, or we embrace others simply because we can.

So you see it is a myth to believe that people with HIV or from LGBTI communities lack family values. In my experience we are embedded in and support a diversity of family structures. We can also be proud of how we have grown the concept of family to mean more than blood relatives, but to also include friends, neighbors, acquaintances and strangers. May we never forget that we are all part of the greater human family. I wish you all an abundant Christmas and holiday season with much love and compassion.