I started two to three years after diagnosis to seek more information and more support.
I was surprised at my family and how supportive they were. I did not expect that because I come from a very physically and verbally abusive upbringing. It was a violent household, we were never a touchy, feely type family. So I was amazed at the response when I finally disclosed to my mother that I was HIV positive. She was the first one I told. And given that I was her only son, and considering my Baptist upbringing, I expected her to react very badly. But her reaction was the complete opposite of that - loving, caring, and supportive. On the phone conversation with her, she was like ‘do you want your sisters to know.’ And I was like ‘yes, you can tell them.’
We were waiting until I was moments from dying and then we’d tell my father what I was dying from, but it really didn’t work out quite that way. I did a commercial for the State Health Department, speaking as a person living with HIV. My father’s sister saw the commercial, so there was a message a phone that night, ‘Leon, your father knows you’re infected, you better call him up.’ I was dreading this conversation. So I get up my nerve, I call my father up and I’m like, ‘dad I heard you found out I’m infected with HIV.’ I’m holding the phone away from my ear because I know he likes to yell and scream. He asked, ‘How’re you doing? How’re feeling? Are you taking your medications? Do you need rides to the doctor? Do you need money for medication?’ At that point I’m looking at the phone wondering, ‘where’s my real father.’ And he kept asking, ‘why am I finding out after all this time?’ Finally I took a real deep breath and told him, ‘because you’re not the easiest person in the world to talk to about anything.’ He got real quiet. From that day forward the abuse stopped. It stopped completely. So my family rallied around me, they all moved to live near me. I asked them, ‘out of all the houses in Detroit, why you have to come live up near me.’ And they said, ‘because in case you get sick, we can get to you quickly.’ Soon after I disclosed, they also started saying ‘I love you’ to each other. I was fortunate that they were and still are very supportive.