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Woman Asks If She’s Wrong For Refusing To Take In Her Sister After Their Parents Disowned Her For Contracting HIV

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We all make mistakes, and our family members are no exception.

But knowing this doesn’t necessarily make it easier to know how to help them get back on their feet.

One big sister, Redditor “sillyapplepie,” is struggling with this right now, as she decides whether or not to take her younger sister into her home while she starts over.

The Redditor asked the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit if she was in the wrong for hesitating to offer help, despite her family’s pressure.

The Redditor asked: 

“AITA for rejecting my sister after her positive HIV test?”

The Redditor felt she had to grow up in a way her younger sister didn’t.

“I’m (26 F[emale]) my Asian parents’ first kid, I was the test-trial child. I had f**kups so my sister (19F) won’t. They count on me for things since they’re not good with English. I was forced to mature at a young age.”

“Then my sister came. I guess that they saw that I turned out fine, they didn’t need to restrict my sister like a dog. They’re overbearing to her, but tiger-parents to me. They favor her like a daughter while they treat me more of a friend-daughter than actual daughter.”

Her younger sister still felt their parents were too protective, however. 

“Sister was angry at their protectiveness that she turned rebellious in high school. She knew she had more leeway than I did. She was right, they tried to stop her from partying and getting drunk with other kids.”

Last year, her sister disappointed their parents. 

“She fell pregnant last year, no baby daddy in picture. My parents have traditional Asian beliefs, and by traditional, I mean bullheaded beliefs that’ll bend a trident. They had high hopes for her: college, good-paying job and a family of her own.”

The parents made a surprising offer. 

“They were angry at her pregnancy, but they didn’t believe in abortion so they made a deal. She gets her education and goes to college; they will help with the baby and tuition.”

The Redditor didn’t agree with the message her parents’ plan sent. 

“As you can see, education and money mean more to my parents than my sister’s responsibility to her unborn child.”

“In true sister fashion, she took advantage of their forgiveness. She graduated, refused to apply to colleges.”

In the meantime, the Redditor moved out to start her own life. 

“I’ve moved out of that household when I started college. I love my parents and my sister, but my mental health was not great then and wanted to get away.”

“My sister rarely calls or texts me, only when she wants something. I still talk to my parents.”

She later discovered her younger sister had tested positive for HIV. 

“I guess the straw that broke their camel backs was the positive HIV test, don’t know what led to the testing. We had drifted into estranged siblings.”

“My parents disowned her. They were tired of the disappointment she brings. They say she’s an embarrassment to their household since we’re close with our relatives.”

“These things don’t stay quiet; relatives know everything somehow.”

After the news spread, her sister turned to her for help.

“My sister asks me to take her in. I declined; I have a roommate who owns fuzzy spiders. My sister accused me of turning our parents against her (I said ‘Okay, not my problem.’ About her pregnancy) and judging her choices.”

“My views have been influenced by my parents. I value money a lot, I’m stingy. She’s not working and I’m not going to support her when she job-hunts.”

Her mother, however, hopes that she will step in as a role model.

“Recently, she called aunty who called mom about my sister sleeping on her friend’s couch and it’s not healthy for baby. That in turn got me involved when mom told me to take her in (Dad’s not budging).”

“She said that I was the responsible daughter and I need to be a role model for my sister, it’s the only way she’ll learn.”

“That brought back memories of favoritism.”

“I talked it over with roommate and he said that family will always have favoritism, but I only have one sister. I love my sister, but I feel devalued, I don’t know if that’s the right word.”

The Redditor wondered if she was in the wrong for not wanting to take her sister in.

“AITA for rejecting sister when she needs me?”

Fellow Redditors replied with anonymous feedback, using the following scale:

  • NTA: “Not the A**hole”
  • YTA: “You’re the A**hole”
  • ESH: “Everybody Sucks Here”
  • NAH: “No A**holes Here”

Some voted YTA.

“I’m going to add a YTA for perpetuating the stigma that an HIV diagnosis carries. This story and relationship seem to have lots of issues and pinning the title on the diagnosis is a**holery.”

“I hope you all get the help you need and come out of this better informed, happier people.”craigsotherfriend

“YTA. To be sure, you’re not TA for not taking her in. That’s a difficult decision that has a lot of other moving parts and, while it would be a kind gesture in order to help her avoid being houseless, it’s understandable if you do not wish to have her and her baby live with you for an indefinite period of time.”

“What you did that is wrong is rejecting her as a person. She is not less of a person because she has HIV. You speak about your sister in a dismissive and stigmatizing tone. There is a lot of stigma about HIV and I encourage you to reflect upon the ways in which you are contributing to it. People who have HIV should not be blamed or shamed. For what it’s worth, though, HIV is a manageable disease these days and your sister has the potential to live a long and meaningful life.”

“It sounds like part of your feelings relate to what you perceive as a pattern of favoritism from your parents. I encourage you to seek your own support for that, such as therapy. But your sister is not responsible for how your parents treated the two of you differently.”jogam

Two Redditors in particular pointed out that everyone was at fault with ESH.

“ESH. Your parents suck for being so callous towards their pregnant, HIV+ daughter and leaving her homeless, all because she ’embarrassed’ your family. Overbearing, super-strict parents really suck (I would know, I come from a similar household).”

“Your sister sucks for what sounds like entitlement and poor choices. It doesn’t say how she got HIV, it could have been not of her doing. Sounds like she’s at a super vulnerable point in her life though, and you turn to family during these moments.”

“Lastly, it’s clear you’re jealous and resentful of her, all because of the choices your parents made in raising you both. That’s not on her, that’s on your parents. While I don’t think you necessarily need to take her in, you should definitely have a talk with your parents about letting her back in the house since HIV is the only reason they’re kicking her out.” – thelastseven

“I don’t think you’re an a**hole as it sounds like some deep rooted issues there but if you love her as you say you do – she needs you right now. Imagine for a second the regrets she must feel about her choices when she was given the news of not one, not two, but three life altering decisions she has no control over.”

“HIV is terrifying. Pregnancy is terrifying. Homelessness is terrifying. Losing the love of your family is beyond terrifying – nothing would make you feel more alone.”

“I simply hope someone can find some compassion for her, if not her own parents and if not her own sister.”robertjohn014

Some pointed out the real people at fault here were the parents. 

“I just want to point out, to me it seems like OP is pointing out parentification which is a form of child abuse and is common in Asian households. It’s not simply resentment, it’s a different kind and I really do think OP should go to therapy.”

“But I don’t think OP is the asshole for not wanting to help. I just think judging someone for positive HIV status is wrong so I’m not putting a judgement here.”baby_witch_raver

“NTA mom has to work harder and not offload her to you. you are not a parent like them”puesyomero

“This makes me so mad. She’s 19. Your parents are AH here. They can’t disown a person and pass them to ‘the responsible one’. Your parents are rejecting your sister and trying to force her onto you. NTA.”DaiZzedandConFuZed

“At what point is enough? Sis sounds like a leech. She’ll hang around, likely not getting a job, fob off the baby on OP to go out.”

“At what point do you say ‘I can’t do everything around here, you need to leave?’ At what point would kicking out her sis and baby be fine? Also, giving her money just shows that someone is willing to bail her out.”

“Talk to the parents about not being a**holes and taking care of the daughter they failed to raise responsibly. She’s their responsibility, not OPs. (Technically, younger sis is her own responsibility but we won’t go there.)”Vinastrasza

Others said the younger sister was really at fault for her choices.

“The sister has been living a selfish lifestyle. Not caring for her older sister. She made her bed. The OP is her sister, not her mother.”

“It is directly the fault of her mother and father’s actions. Now that is is difficult to take care of her and they want the older sister to step in, after being bottom of totem pole for so many years?!”

“Yes it is sad the sister is homeless and pregnant with HIV. That is not the older sister fault or obligation in any way. The younger sister chose to live a blasé lifestyle. Now she has burned her bridges.”

“She needs to learn to take care of herself and that child, or give it up for adoption. That was her decisions that led to that. Not her sister’s. She is a sibling not a parent. She has zero obligations to her little sister. NTA”phobicgirly

“You are not her parent and it’s not the siblings job to parent younger sibs. You do not have to allow toxicity into your space. Although I will agree with them on seeking help.”

“I have a toxic sister that is very similar to yours. She is also the family favorite and my parents often try to pawn her and her issues on me. My therapist has helped to reinforce my values while also making my boundaries clear.”

“You can decline to host your sister while also making your boundaries clear to your parents and show respect to your cultural background. It’s a delicate balance, but can be done.”

“Good luck OP. NTA. Period.”La_Puta

“I think the sister has made many poor life decisions that has led to her current position, none of which are the responsibility of the OP. If OP feels like giving her a place to stay wouldn’t stress her out too much, it’d be the kind thing to do.”

“But I can’t imagine having to take on someone who is going to require massive medical attention and is bringing in a child into the world, all with absolutely 0 income.”

“And the sister likely won’t be much help around the house either given she’s pregnant and will be recovering afterwards. That’s a significant commitment.”ChaoticMidget

One Redditor pointed out that while the true fault was with the parents, the OP needed to work on her perspective of the situation, too.

“A lot to unpack here. First off, NTA. It’s not your place to have to burden yourself for the mistakes of others, especially when there is a child involved.”

“That said, I think that you are an a**hole, and probably just because of ignorance and culture, so not entirely your fault, and obviously discussions regarding cultural issues require much more nuance than is reasonable on the internet, so I’ll keep this as short and concise as I can.”

“Shaming your sister for HIV is a disgusting thing to do.”

“Of course the culture of your family unfortunately forced your sister into a place that she was not ready for, and I honestly feel bad for her, shaming over pregnancy, I would almost guarantee that your family touts ‘abstinence’ as the only acceptable birth control.”

“[R]efusing to allow basically a child to have an abortion over some ridiculous sense of morality, then refuse to hold themselves accountable, instead disowning their own daughter for what realistically equated to their decision and parenting is morally indefensible.”

“There’s a lot of issues here, and they all lead back to controlling and abusive parents”Dredge917

After receiving feedback, the Redditor returned to her post to share her thoughts. 

“Thank you for your thoughtful inputs (YTA, NTA, ESH), I read them and will continue to read them.”

“1) I’ve already painted her in a negative light subconsciously, so I won’t go into how she has treated me in detail, but I can say that it was hard to be around her.”

“She could do no wrong when she was a child and I could do everything wrong if I’m not mindful. She wasn’t verbally or emotionally mean, we just never got close for various reasons.”

“2) To answer the spider question: my roommate didn’t get them from a reputable place, he got them from another friend and don’t know what kind they are. We just know it’s not poisonous and don’t know how much harm it can bring.”

She has a familial relationship with her sister but isn’t sure how to connect with her. 

“3) I love my sister in the familial sense, I’ll always see her as my blood family. However, I can’t love her as a person, at least not now. Every time I look at her, I just want to stay away.”

“The title’s probably wrong and too harsh. And, thank you for educating me about HIV, I’m still ignorant about it. I didn’t reject her because of her diagnosis or the baby, but because she brings back painful memories of me being a low priority and loved second.”

“In a way, I’m thinking like my parents, it was just the last straw that drained me. I’m tired of looking after her. I try looking past our differences before coming on here, but I can’t, I’m physically unable to nor am I mentally ready.”

She also doesn’t want to place all of the responsibility on her concerned aunt.

“4) She is close to the aunt on my mom’s side, but the aunt doesn’t want to get between family business. She’s also in a tough spot. Aunty can take her in, but it’ll cause a rift between her and my dad.”

“I don’t want to put that burden on my aunt. She doesn’t deserve unwarranted disdain from my dad or strain the relationship between families.”

At this point, she isn’t sure what to do next. 

“5) I don’t have a long term plan, I don’t even know where to start with a short term plan to help. You guys are right, it’s not my sister’s fault. A few mentioned what I feel is more than resentment. I think from a young age, I’ve started to hate her deep down and I never noticed it.”

“I wasn’t able to come to terms with it because I was the big sister and I needed to be responsible for her in whatever way that I can.”

She even wishes everyone on the thread had been harder on her. 

“I wish the unanimous verdict was YTA. It’s what I deserve for even thinking of abandoning my sister when she hasn’t done anything at a dangerous time like this.”

“She and her baby needs me, it’s what big sisters are here for.”

The Redditor has clearly put a lot of thought into this situation already, but what decision she will make remains unclear, probably most of all to her.

McKenzie Lynn Tozan

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.