HIV Disclosure

Disclosure is when you share your HIV status as HIV-positive to others. Here’s a list of the concerns you might have and the benefits you should think about for HIV disclosure.

Disclosure Concerns

Negative Reactions
Treatment for HIV has come a long way, but some people might have outdated or wrong ideas about the virus. If you want to share your status with someone who doesn’t understand HIV well, try telling them about your status with a healthcare professional in the room or on the phone. A healthcare professional can help you explain how treatment for HIV has changed over the years and continues to get better.

Stigma
There is still a lot of stigma around HIV. Telling someone that you’re HIV-positive might lead them to assume things about you like your sexual orientation or sexual behaviors. Being HIV-positive doesn’t mean that any of those assumptions are true.

Serodiscordant Relationships
A sexual relationship is serodiscordant when one partner has HIV but the other(s) do not. If someone in your relationship doesn’t have HIV, telling them that you do can feel impossible. Remember, as long as you continue to take your antiretrovirals (HIV medication) every day to keep your viral load undetectable, it’s very hard for your partner(s) to get HIV from you. It may be helpful to explain U=U to your partner(s) with a healthcare provider. Read more about talking to your partner(s) about your status in the next section.

Acceptance
Telling others about your HIV status might make you feel exposed. It could feel like you’re sharing a very part of yourself you might not like or believe to someone. Disclosing is not for everyone, but disclosing your status could be an important step in accepting your diagnosis and making plans live in control of your HIV.

 

Disclosure Benefits

Positive Reactions
The way people feel about HIV is changing. If you share your HIV status with others, they may want to know how you feel and what they can do to help. You can use positive reactions to teach others about HIV medications, U=U, and connect them to websites like For HIMM where they can learn more about being an ally.

Finding a Community
Sharing your status might lead you to meet others who also have HIV. Finding others that share and understand your experiences can help you build strong friendships and relationships.

Finding Support
Being told that you have HIV can make you feel alone. By sharing your status with others, you can start to find people that want to support you as you learn to live with HIV. If the people around you understand how important your HIV medications and doctor’s appointments are to your health, they might also be interested in doing what they can to help you stay healthy.

Should you tell others you’re HIV-positive?

The answer to this question might depend on who you want to disclose to. Here are our tips, based on the experiences of others, for talking to different groups of people about being HIV-positive.

Family and Friends

Think about your relationship with your family members and friends. You might choose to disclose your HIV status to some but not others, and that’s okay. You might not want to disclose to anyone, and that’s okay too. It may be easier to disclose to family and friends if you explain why you want to share your status with them and how sharing your status with them makes you feel.

Never disclose your HIV status if you feel like disclosing will put your safety or the safety of someone else is at risk.

 

Long-term sexual and/or romantic partner(s)

Telling your partner(s) that you’re HIV-positive can be uncomfortable. Here are our tips for dealing with these conversations:

Communication is the key to any successful relationship.
Even if you think your partner(s) don’t want to hear about your HIV status, they may appreciate hearing it from you than from someone else.

Get your facts ready
HIV prevention has come a long way, but a lot of people in the United States still think HIV is as bad as it was twenty years ago. Be ready to explain how you’re keeping yourself healthy and others safe from the virus.

Safety
If you don’t feel safe telling a partner that you have HIV, call your doctor’s office or your local health department. They have services that can tell your partner(s) that they may have been exposed to HIV without using your name.

Learn more about sharing your HIV status here.

 

Hookups

Casual partners, one-night stands…having sex with someone you’re not in a romantic relationship with has many names. If you’re only planning to have sex with that person once, should you tell them your status? The decision is up to you, but here are a few things you should think about:

Are you undetectable?
If you take your HIV medication every day and you know you’re undetectable, you don’t have a high risk of giving HIV to someone else. If you tell a casual partner that you’re HIV-positive, you might also have to teach them about U=U before you have sex with them.

Legal Risks
In some states, it’s a crime to give HIV to other people, even if you didn’t know you had HIV. It’s also a crime in some states to have sex with someone without telling them you’re HIV-positive. Read more about the laws in your state here.

Safety
If you don’t feel safe telling a partner(s) that you have HIV, you can call your doctor’s office or local health department. They can call your partner(s) for you and let them know they should get tested for HIV without using your name.

Paying for HIV Medication

You need to take antiretrovirals, or HIV medication, to use U=U. HIV medications need to be prescribed to you by a healthcare provider.

Most health insurances will pay for HIV medication. If you do not have insurance, there are programs that can provide HIV medication for free or at a reduced cost. Contact your local health department for more information.