You're HIV positive (HIV+). You've only just learned about your status. OR you've known about it for sometime. Whether it's still fresh news that you are beginning to absorb or it's something you have been living with for a while, there are bound to be many situations in your life in which you will be faced with the decision of whether or not to disclose your HIV status – to tell others that you are infected with HIV. In a number of circumstances you will find yourself trying to balance honesty with protecting your right to privacy.
Whom do you feel you need to tell? Is there someone you want to tell, but aren't sure what or how much to say? Is there anyone you feel that you must tell like a spouse, a partner, or perhaps someone whom you've been dating? What about informing any sex partners you've been with about your status? Perhaps you're having surgery or you're going to be seeing a dentist. Do you have to advise these or other healthcare providers that you're HIV positive? Do they have a legal right to ask you about HIV status or to deny you care if you are HIV positive? Are there any circumstances when you're legally required to disclose that you're HIV positive?
Along with the many thoughts and feelings you will experience while coming to terms with your HIV infection, these are some of the questions and concerns that may arise with respect to disclosing your HIV status. As with so many of the issues about HIV, or many important life decisions, there are no absolute answers that are right for everyone.
It takes time to adjust to being HIV positive. With that in mind, it's a good idea to not rush into disclosing your status without first giving it some thought. Wanting to share this knowledge with someone else is a perfectly natural reaction, especially when it's new to you and you're feeling overwhelmed, vulnerable, and uncertain about your life and your future. The reality is that people with HIV need to be selective about disclosing. They need to be selective about who they tell and when they tell them. This process of selection often involves uncertainty and can sometimes be an anguishing experience.
That old fashioned maxim, "easy does it" is a good approach to consider when thinking about disclosure. Even if you've been living with HIV for a while, you'll likely find situations continuously arising in which you may be forced to think about having to disclose your HIV status. Wanting to tell family members, employers, fellow employees, and friends is very natural. However, the truth of the matter is that it can also create new problems for you. Over the past twenty years of the HIV epidemic, there have been some significant improvements in the general public's awareness about and understanding of HIV issues. Unfortunately, there's still a stigma attached to the whole subject of HIV and to those who have it. Yes, there is more understanding and wider acceptance than in the past, but unsympathetic and prejudicial reactions are still not uncommon in some families, in the workplace, and in social situations.