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Fathers, Daughters, and Denial Turned Activism

Hassan found out he was HIV positive in 2010. He and his wife had long split up – but when he found out she had passed away, Hassan had a feeling he knew why.

“My brother is a doctor in California,” Hassan said. “He tested me for HIV years before, but didn’t tell me the truth because he was scared of my reaction. Deep down, I knew what he couldn’t tell me.”

Eventually, Hassan visited Alive Medical Services to be tested and treated for HIV. At first, the medication made him dizzy, weak, and drowsy – but after speaking with the doctors, he was switched to the same antiretrovirals he has been on ever since.

“When I first found out I had HIV, I was heartbroken,” Hassan said. “I was in denial until I went through intensive counselling at AMS. They helped me work through what I was feeling.”

Because he hadn’t felt symptoms until a few months before his diagnosis, Hassan had no idea the virus had also touched his daughter. She was just 12 years old at the time she was tested, and at such a young age, Hassan was unsure how to tell her the truth.

The two developed an unspoken routine: Hassan and his daughter would take their medication together in the morning. It wasn’t until Hassan’s daughter saw another student at school taking the same medication that she started asking questions.

Understanding the value of proper disclosure, Hassan sought support from the AMS counseling department. He sat his daughter down to tell her the truth, finally revealing the secret he’d been keeping for two years.

“Will we die?” Hassan’s daughter asked.

“No,” Hassan answered. “If we keep taking our medication, we will live long, healthy lives.”

Today, Hassan’s daughter is an activist in her community. She takes after her father, who is outspoken about HIV, stigma, and the availability of free HIV resources both in person and online. By speaking out about HIV at school, Hassan’s daughter has mentored a number of HIV-positive children, helping them adhere to their medication and stay optimistic about their futures.

“She’s strong and vigilant,” Hassan said. “I couldn’t be prouder of who she has become.”