To Tell or Not to Tell
If you just found out you have HIV, you need support.
If you just found out you have HIV, you need support. But telling your family, friends and coworkers about your status can be a scary prospect. With the exception of sexual partners—see next page—there’s no deadline for telling people. Some do it right away. Others need to take time to adjust to the news.
Consider these quick tips when deciding whether to tell—or not:
Be sure to go over the five Ws when thinking about disclosure: who, what, when, where and why. Whom do you need to tell? What do you want to tell them about your HIV infection, and what are you expecting from them? When should you tell them? Where is the best place to have this conversation? Why are you telling them?
Tell It Like It Is
- You have a virus. That doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. You don’t have anything to apologize for simply because you are HIV positive.
- There’s no perfect roadmap for how to disclose. Trust your instincts, not your fears. Also, keep it simple—you don’t have to tell the story of your life.
- Having some information on hand, such as a phone number for an AIDS hotline and the Web address for POZ (poz.com), can be helpful. Encourage people to research these trusted sources of information and to get back to you with questions or concerns they may have.
- Even if you don’t get the response you were hoping for, remember that it can take some time to process major information. Millions of others have dealt with difficult disclosure experiences and have found their way through it—you will too.
- If you are still not able to tell close friends, family members or other loved ones about your HIV status, allow yourself to draw upon the support and experience available to you through organized groups in the HIV community. Consider the POZ community forums (forums.poz.com) for example.
Disclosing your HIV status may never be easy, but it can yield the support you need and, in some cases, positive outcomes you never expected. But don’t just take our word for it.
Andy Hansen, Diagnosed 1985
Hansen waited for three years to disclose his HIV status to his parents, fearing the information would cause them pain. When he eventually told them, he says, “They were very supportive and wanted to know how they could help me. They respected my decision to [wait], but also regretted that they were not able to know the truth about what I was facing.”
David Greene, Diagnosed 2007
When he suffered a jaw infection in 2008, Greene knew he’d need to disclose his recent HIV status to the staffs of two different dentists. “In one day, I had to reveal my status to six different people!” And much to his surprise, “The kindness and respect I received was wonderful, and nothing was denied me. In fact, things were expedited because being positive with an active infection is not a good combination!”
Leatrice Simpson, Diagnosed 1992
Unaware of her status, a gentleman vying for Simpson’s attention joked that he’d tell another courter that she has AIDS. “Shocked, I told him I really was HIV positive. He apologized and extended compassion. I held no grudge, and we eventually got married.”
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