I Have Something to Tell You
by Regan Hofmann

Atria Books, 2009. ISBN 978-1-4165-9859-6.
Reviewed by Susan Schoch
Posted on 10/15/2009

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Body Language

Regan Hofmann was just 28, still recovering from the hurt and disappointment of a divorce, when she noticed a lump in her groin. Though she was close to her family, she didn't share the doctor's diagnosis with them for several months. She struggled alone as she tried to come to grips with what seemed an obvious death sentence: she was HIV positive.

Yet this memoir is not the story of a dying AIDS victim. There's a new generation of people with HIV, people who are taking the pharmaceutical "cocktails" that make it possible to survive and manage the illness. Certainly she was forced to confront mortality, but as time went on and so did her life, what Hofmann struggled with most was the stigma and fear associated with HIV. She lived for nearly ten years in the closet, with only her closest family members, and medical personnel, aware of her disease.

She had been a freelance writer/editor with a promising career, but for more than a year she stopped working and retreated into self-imposed isolation. Telling family and friends that it was post-divorce depression, she held on by a thread as she came to grips with this blow. She waited for the end.

It chills sympathy a bit to know that Hofmann didn't worry about the rent or the groceries. When at last she confided in her immediate family, no one was concerned about the medical bills. In fact, she moved back home with her two horses, and her parents provided for her while she devoted herself to long rides in the New Jersey countryside. Meanwhile she agonized over the secret of her infection.

Her reactions may seem a little overwrought for someone with virtually no symptoms, and a life of privilege. Many people with AIDS have greater challenges. As an experienced editor, Hoffman knows she has to work to win our sympathy, so she emphasizes her emotional pain, yet she might have shown more awareness of the difficulties for those without family support and financial resources. Nonetheless, as she matures in dealing with this life-shattering news, the issue of wealth slips aside.

It's shame and fear that kept Hofmann so secretive about her HIV status. And it was not unfounded. She faced rejection and reactions of disgust. Though she understood the mortal terror behind those responses, she was also trapped by the implicit criticism. She did not easily make herself vulnerable to such judgments. Attractive young men especially made her long for an uncomplicated connection. Yet her personal and professional interactions with the HIV/AIDS community, and her own courage, eventually gave her the confidence and sense of purpose to come out with her truth.

In I Have Something to Tell You Regan Hoffman moves from victim to activist. She tells her story in an effort to conquer the stigma of HIV/AIDS, raise awareness and prevent further spread of the disease. She's out of the HIV closet and putting herself on the page to educate us, in hopes of saving us. Her ability to derive meaning from her own misfortune adds inspiration to the necessary information.

As editor-in-chief of a leading HIV/AIDS magazine, POZ, and its website, Regan Hofmann travels and speaks internationally to raise awareness and and fight the stigma of the disease. She has devoted herself to educating the public in hopes of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and improving acceptance and support for those living with the virus. She's a native of Princeton, New Jersey, and currently resides there, enjoying her family and riding her horses.

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