Being diagnosed with HIV can be life-changing. If you've recently discovered you're HIV positive or have known this for some time, you'll have to decide whether or not to inform others (also known as disclosure) about your HIV status at some point.
There are just a very few cases where you are legally obliged to reveal your HIV status. In all other cases, the decision lies solely with you.
If you decide to disclose, here are tips that can help you:
When disclosing your HIV status ..
Consider the 5Ws and H:
- Who do you have to inform?
- What do you want to tell them about your HIV status, and what do you expect from the people to whom you've revealed your HIV status?
- Why do you need to tell them about your HIV status?
- What is the best location and time for this discussion?
- How do you want to inform them?
3 options for disclosure
- Full disclosure: entails disclosing all aspects of your HIV status.
- Partial disclosure: entails providing some important information about your HIV status.
- Complete non-disclosure: entails maintaining complete secrecy about your HIV status.
If you are still at school, you can talk to a trusted adult and this can be your parent, caregiver, teacher, or health care provider about disclosure.
If you unintentionally reveal your HIV status at school, you may experience fear and anxiety. You can seek emotional help from a trusted adult such as a counselor, teacher, parent, or health care provider.
Remember that if you have HIV, you can still attend school and excel as everyone else.
In most cases, deciding who to disclose to is a personal choice. It's your decision, and you have the right to make it. Although you are not required to tell everyone that you are HIV positive, it may be a good idea to notify someone who is:
- Your social support system
- Current, past, and future sexual partners and drug-injecting partners
- Your health care providers
Take it easy
Disclosing your HIV status will affect your life in one way or another. It can be scary, harmful stressful, positive, empowering, or helpful. Think carefully whether you're sharing for the right reasons or just because you're anxious and want to share your feelings.
You are not obligated to tell your life story.
You are not alone
Talking to other people who are living with HIV may also be useful. Do not isolate yourself.
Sharing experiences, anxieties, concerns, and solutions with other people in a similar situation can be really helpful in identifying how you would want to disclose your HIV status to others. Join a support group or online discussion groups.
Medical professionals can be helpful in talking through your feelings about disclosure and offer support in formulating a plan for how to do it and how to manage any issues that might arise afterward
Millions of others have gone through similar experiences and are doing okay. You'll get through it as well.