Some HIVers choose to disclose their status. Others have disclosure thrust upon them. We asked some friends to reminisce about the name game.
Has anyone ever revealed your status without your consent?
Burnice Wilson, Texas: When I was arrested, the Dallas police revealed my status on public TV. When I complained about the disclosure, the chief of police and mayor told me, "You have no right to privacy." I'm in jail for theft, not any kind of crime that would remotely be connected with my status!
Vickie Lynn, Florida: Someone informed a potential date 12 years ago. I was furious, but the more I thought about it, the more I understood that they were trying to protect their friend, though that is no excuse unless someone is being harmed. The date was very understanding and we ended up together for over four years.
Joe Killfoile, Florida: Once an ex-boyfriend came up to our group and disclosed to his boyfriend that everyone in the group was HIV positive. I immediately looked him in the eye and said, "Are you aware that in Michigan it is a crime to disclose the status of another individual?"
Have you ever disclosed another's status without consent?
Monica Johnson, Louisiana [POZ cover girl, April 1998]: No. That is a big peeve of mine. Like when I'm talking to people from other community-based organizations, when they actually use their clients' names. It's possible that I could know the person.
Shawn Decker, Virginia [POZ cover boy, December 1996/January 1997]: When I first put my website up (www.positoid.com), I would write about friends I was hanging out with. I was so happy to have positoid pals, I even put pictures up. Yikes!
What words of wisdom would you offer an HIVer who has just been "outed"?
Robin Lee Taylor, California: Turn it around and ask them to let you know when they have a cold, because the HIV positive person is the one in danger.
Jeremy Andrews, Canada: Hang on, baby. The roller-coaster has left the station and you are in the front seat. You will quickly find out who your real friends and family will be. And, yes, people will talk.