One family photo is changing the conversation about HIV
The stigma of HIV persists, but in the age of effective drugs, better treatment, and a better understanding of the virus, more and more people are leading long, productive lives. One father proved that when he shared a picture on Facebook of his family of five, including three children, all of whom are HIV-negative though he is HIV-positive.
33-year-old Andrew Pulsipher of Phoenix was born HIV-positive after it was passed to him by his parents. Both his parents tragically succumbed to AIDS when he was a child and Andrew was raised from age eight by his aunt and uncle. Ten years ago, at 23, he married his wife, Victoria, and together they looked into their options for starting a family.
“I kind of just assumed I would get it too,” Victoria told NBC12News. “And that was OK with me, because I loved him and I wanted to be with him.”
Thanks to advanced fertility science, the couple were able to have their first child, born HIV-negative, using a special procedure called sperm washing, which separates the uninfected sperm from the infected semen. Their two younger children were conceived naturally, according to Andrew’s Facebook post, and are also HIV-negative.
Last week, Pulsipher decided to share his story, along with his family photo, on Facebook—and the post quickly went viral.
“I am sharing this with you because for the first time I can be completely honest with myself and others,” he wrote. “This has taken me a very long time to be comfortable with (almost 34 years!). I know HIV has a negative stigma, but that it doesn’t have to and I want to help change that. It is a treatable disease and you can live a normal life with it. I am proof of that. I want to educate people so that we can get past the “HOW you got the disease” to “HOW you are living your life with it”? There are many miracles in the world and I believe my life is one of them. I am not the only one and we all have stories to tell.”
Now, a week after bravely opening up about his story, Andrew continues to field praise and support from commenters—as well as questions. He’s now turned his page into an opportunity to provide candid answers—about everything from having kids to being intimate—based entirely on his personal experience.
He is careful not to solicit medical advice. “I’m NOT a doctor and will never recommend treatment for anyone,” he writes. “That’s not my place or call so please don’t ask.” Instead, his intention is to raise awareness about living with HIV today, in hopes of helping others with the same condition.
“We have to get rid of the stigma,” he told NBC12News. “We have to get rid of the hate.”
(Image via Facebook)