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Sharing your status

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Sharing your HIV status means telling someone you have HIV. It is sometimes called disclosure or disclosing your status. 

Many people with HIV worry about whether and how to share their status with other people. 

Remember you don’t have to tell anyone. But if you choose to, it might help you process your emotions and feelings. 

Do I have to tell anyone?

No. Your HIV status is personal information. It's up to you if you want to tell other people and who they might be. You should never feel pressured into doing this. 

What are the benefits of telling someone?

Some people find it easy to tell others they have HIV while others find it very difficult. Telling someone you trust about your HIV status can help you process your thoughts and emotions. Many people find that it gets easier once they begin to tell others, especially if people can offer support. 

Who could I tell?

You may want to be completely open about your HIV status, or you may want to only tell a small number of people – it’s your choice.  

Choose people you trust, and you know care for you. Talking about your status can help you get emotional and practical support, whether you have recently been diagnosed or have had HIV for a while.

How can I tell someone I have HIV?

Think about the answers to these questions first: 

  • Are you sure you want to tell this person? 

  • What are you going to say? 

  • What questions might they ask you? How would you answer these? 

  • Is there anything you are expecting from them afterwards? 

  • Do you feel able to cope with a bad reaction from them? 

Have some information about HIV on hand to share with them. They may not know about how HIV is passed on, or about HIV treatment. They may assume that you don’t have long to live, or that you won’t be able to have relationships or a family. If you can help them understand the facts about HIV, they are less likely to react negatively. You may need to give some people time to process the information. 

When should I tell them?

If you have recently found out you have HIV, take time to understand what this means and how you feel before you tell many people. 

When you’re ready, plan where and when would be best. Think about a time and place where you can both be relaxed and feel safe. You’ll want plenty of time together, so you can talk about it uninterrupted. 

How might they react?

Think about what kind of reaction you might get. Will they be calm and supportive? Might they get upset and worried for you? Could they be angry, or even violent? 

Talk to a healthcare professional, a support group or HIV organisation, to help you think about how to handle someone’s reaction. You might want someone to be with you when you share your status. 

Unfortunately, there is stigma about HIV in some communities. Some people might not understand what HIV is, how it’s passed on, they may be afraid, or judgmental. This means you may get some negative reactions.  

But, remember that many people have good experiences of sharing their HIV status. 

Will they tell someone else?

If you want to keep your status confidential (private), make this clear to them. Think carefully about whether you can trust this person. 

Might there be negative consequences of telling someone I have HIV?

Some people experience negative reactions and serious consequences of sharing their status – this includes their status being shared with others without permission.  

Unfortunately people have been fired from a job, asked to leave their religious group, experienced stigma or discrimination, or even kicked out of their home because of their HIV-positive status. This is not OK but sadly it does happen.  

This is why it’s important to think about whether you trust someone before you tell them.  

Let's talk about sharing your status!

Here are a few questions to help kick-off discussions on the issues you need to talk about! You can share them on social, on WhatsApp or just get talking.

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Looking for more detailed information?

Should I tell my partner I have HIV?

HIV can be passed on during sex, so telling someone who is a current or previous sexual partner can be difficult and emotional. Go to our ‘Sharing your status with a partner’ page for more on this.  

Should I talk about HIV with my child(ren)?

Whether your child also has HIV or not, it can be difficult to decide how much information to give children about HIV. Every child is different, and every parent is different. So, there isn’t a ‘right’ way to tell your child that you and/or they have HIV. 

Often, children are told gradually over time, giving them information they can understand, depending on their age. Children will often have questions about why they are taking treatment or why they have to see their doctor. This can be a good opportunity to give information and offer reassurance. 

Talking to other parents and a healthcare professional can help you think about what you might like to say and when. 

Do I have to tell my employer/workplace I have HIV?

There are only a few jobs where you have to tell your employer you have HIV. These jobs vary depending on what country you live in. It can be jobs like being in the armed forces, being a doctor or being a pilot among others. If there is no requirement to tell your employer, then it is completely up to you if you tell them or not. Unfortunately, some people experience stigma at work and may even be fired. So, think carefully before sharing your status. 

What should I do if someone tells me they have HIV?

If someone tells you they have HIV, they may need your support. Think about what they might need help with and ask them how they are coping. You could ask them: 

  • how are you coping with your HIV diagnosis? 

  • how are you finding taking your treatment? 

  • what are you doing to stay healthy? 

  • do you need any support? 

  • is there anything I can do to help? 

Remember, the most important thing is to listen, be supportive and don’t judge. 

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