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Telling others you’re HIV positive

Telling friends and family about being HIV won't be an easy step, but giving them the facts about the condition is important as many people still have many misconceptions about the virus.

Who you tell is a very personal decision, and it may help to get tips from a support organisation beforehand, as well as preparing for questions people will have.

Who should I tell that I'm HIV Positive?

In general, it makes sense to tell those you trust. Doing so may even help foster a greater sense of closeness. Think about people you've shared difficult things with in the past. You may want to start by telling a friend, a family member, or someone you know who is also HIV positive, or has been through a similar experience. These are other people you should tell:

  • Your healthcare providers
  • Your past sexual or needle-sharing partners
  • Your future sexual partners

When considering who to tell, think about questions like these:

  • Could this person harm me physically or emotionally?
  • Could this person discriminate against me, putting me at risk of losing my child, job, or housing?
  • Can I trust this person and are they likely to be supportive?
  • What will I gain by telling this person?

Why should I tell people I'm HIV Positive?

Although you may want to be cautious about who you tell, once you're ready, there are good reasons to tell certain people that you're HIV positive.

  • You can gain emotional or practical support.
  • The person who infected you may not know they may be HIV positive until you tell them.
  • You can protect future sexual partners, give them the ability to make informed decisions, and enhance the trust between you. It is a criminal offence to knowingly infect others. If you have unprotected sex without telling others, you're putting yourself at legal risk, as well as endangering the health of your partners.
  • Your healthcare providers can ensure the best medical care for you.

How do I tell people I'm HIV positive?

There is no one right way to tell others. It's often better to do this one-on-one but you could also tell others in a group, by phone, or by letter. If you are meeting with someone to have this conversation, choose a place that is private and feels comfortable, and allow plenty of time to talk.

Here are things to consider when telling the different kinds of people in your life.

Friends and family members. In a perfect world, these would be the easiest people to tell. In reality, they are sometimes the ones most hurt, most scared, or most angry. And it often feels as though there's more at stake if things don't go well. However, keeping a secret from those you love can be painful. Be prepared for many different types of reactions.

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