It is hard to know how people will react when you tell them you are HIV positive. Many people find that family and close friends are supportive and understanding although that is not always the case. Unfortunately, some people react very negatively, usually based on fear and ignorance about HIV infection and stigma about HIV.
Disclosure is a very personal process. You don’t need to rush out and tell people. You may want to give yourself some time to adjust to your diagnosis. If you think an important person in your life may have a bad reaction, you may decide to wait until you are feeling more confident or you may decide not to tell them. It is usually very beneficial to tell at least one important person in your life to make sure you have some support.
- Who can I trust with my information?
- Who will offer me the support that I need?
- Who will be able to accept the news without judging me?
- Who will respect my privacy and be able to keep this information confidential?
- What’s best for me?
Being ‘out’ about your HIV status can be very empowering. Alternatively, you may want to keep your HIV status (and any other aspects of your personal life/health information) private.
Disclosure can be additionally fraught for women with children, as many women feel a pressing need to protect their children from possible discrimination.
Remember, once you have told someone, you cannot ‘untell’ them. If you don’t want everyone knowing you have HIV, be careful not to tell people who gossip. When you do tell someone, you can ask them to keep your confidence although that can be stressful for them. You could ask them to be careful who they tell, let them know if you’ve told anyone else they can also talk with, or suggest other people they could turn to for support.
If you want to talk about having HIV with someone outside your circle of family and friends, it can be useful to talk with a counsellor or HIV peer support person. They can help you work through particular issues and can also help you decide who you want to tell, when you want to tell them and also how best to tell them.