Though “Survivor” has arguably taken a joyful turn in recent seasons, with host Jeff Probst often injecting humorous takes on the game and its players, the reality behind many contestants’ lives are still bleak. Recently, Hai Giang, a contestant on the current season, “Survivor 42,” revealed that he has recently lost his cousin to AIDS, and posted a tribute to him online.
Hai’s Cousin Died of AIDS
On Saturday, the AIDS Memorial, an Instagram account dedicated to memorializing those who have died from AIDS in the United States, announced the death of a man who they referred to as “Jimmy,” who died of AIDS on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. The post tagged Hai, who was Jimmy’s cousin, and presented a quote from him memorializing Jimmy.
“RIP to my cousin, Jimmy ❤️,” Hai wrote. “He passed away on Wednesday from complications with AIDS. I’m saddened that this disease is still claiming lives in 2022. The world has come a long way in combating this virus but we still have a way to go.”
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit which focuses on bringing awareness to major health care issues in the United States, over 5,000 deaths in the U.S. were attributed primarily to HIV/AIDS in 2019 alone. It remains the 9th leading cause of death for those aged 25-34, and 10th for those aged 35-44. In addition, there were nearly 35,000 new HIV/AIDS infections in the U.S. in 2019, and the number of people currently living with the disease stands at about 1.2 million, around 13% of whom do not know they are infected. As Hai says, it is important to regularly get tested, both for protective and preventative reasons.
Hai Is Currently Searching for His Grandfather
The tragic death of Hai’s cousin is not the only dramatic news story about his family. As Hai has talked about on his TikTok account, he is currently searching for his biological grandfather. As he explained in one video, his father was an orphan who grew up in Vietnam, and was the child of an American serviceman and a Vietnamese woman, conceived during the Vietnam War.
Hai’s grandmother died shortly after childbirth, so he now hopes to discover the identity of his grandfather through genealogy sites. “I’m really just looking to reclaim parts of my identity and my father’s identity that have been missing our entire lives,” Hai explained. “I’m not looking for anything more than that.”
As Hai explained in another video, this phenomenon of American soldiers impregnating Vietnamese women during the war was relatively common. In the video, he encouraged those who had fathers or grandfathers who served in the Vietnam War to take DNA tests and submit them online, as there is a good chance they could discover some relatives they didn’t know about. “It could be me!” he added humorously.
Hai was born in Gia Rai, Bac Lieu, Vietnam in 1992 and moved to the United States as a refugee at a young age, according to his CBS bio. In his pre-season Parade interview, he revealed that “Survivor” holds great significance to him because, as he grew up very poor with parents who worked seven days a week, he would often watch the show as he was home alone. “When you grow up poor, you don’t really have the means to explore the world,” Hai said. “And the show allowed me to see such a variety of people that existed and allowed me the chance to travel and see these beautiful views that I couldn’t access within the confines of our apartment.”
Hai has said that he will continue to post updates of his story as time goes on.
“Survivor 42” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS.